Cllr. Donnelly welcomes Minister Gormley’s clarification of waste policy for all planning authorities

3rd June 2009

Department of Environment circular to all planning authorities makes it clear that mechanical and biological treatments, not incineration, are to be the cornerstones of national waste policy in the future

The Green Party’s candidate for the Carrigaline area of Cork County Council and for Passage West Town Council, Cllr. Dominick Donnelly, has welcomed the letter which has been circulated to all planning authorities around the country from the Department of the Environment, which clarifies that waste policy in the country is changing, with the emphasis switching away from incineration towards mechanical and biological treatment. This circular comes in advance of the full review of national waste policy which is currently being undertaken by consultants Eunomia, and which is due to be complete in July.

Cllr. Donnelly said: “This clarification that incineration is no longer a cornerstone of national waste policy, coupled with the recent introduction of an incineration levy comparable to the landfill levy, is highly significant for the planning application currently before An Bord Pleanála for two incinerators at Ringaskiddy. The oral hearing for that application is due to resume next Monday, and surely the message is coming loud and clear from Government that incineration is no longer part of Government policy. Given that when the Ringaskiddy incinerators were granted planning five years ago by An Bord Pleanála it was solely on the basis that it was Government policy, this clarification from Minister Gormley, I think now makes it impossible for the board to reasonably grant planning for the Ringaskiddy incinerators.”

“As well as this circular, and the recent incineration levies, I have seen the text of an order which Minister Gormley will be issuing next week, which in effect reinstates the Proximity Principle. This effectively means that any incinerator or landfill can only accept waste from whichever of the eight waste management regions in which it is situated. The Ringaskiddy incinerators would therefore be only able to accept waste from within County Cork. This really makes them non-viable financially, and so should be another nail in their coffin,” continued Cllr. Donnelly.

Cllr. Donnelly concluded: “With this series of measures introduced by Minister Gormley in recent weeks, I hope it is now patently clear that incineration is no longer a key component of national waste management policy. While an outright ban on incineration is not currently possible due to existing planning permissions in Poolbeg in Dublin, and in Carranstown, Co. Meath, it is now clear that Government policy is heading in that direction. Incineration is so clearly not the way we should be dealing with our waste. A proper waste industry based on reuse, recycling within this country, and mechanical and biological treatments is the only policy that makes any sense, both in terms of economics and the environment.”

 

Full text of Department of the Envrionment circular to planning authorities:

May 2009

Update on progress in respect of implementing the waste management provisions of the Programme for Government

 I am directed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to update you on progress in respect of implementing the waste management provisions of the Programme for Government, and in particular the commitment to conduct an international review of waste management policy. 

 The Programme for Government makes major commitments in relation to national waste policy. In particular, there is an emphasis on moving away from the high reliance on incineration foreseen in the National Development Plan and reflected in the regional waste management plans for which the local authorities have statutory responsibility, generally operating in regional groupings. In this regard it is intended that there be an increased commitment to the use of alternative technologies, including those known as mechanical and biological treatment.

 The Department’s Statement of Strategy 2008-2010, which is published on the Department’s web site and which was noted by Government in July 2008, states:

 “The new Programme for Government indicates a further development of waste and resource policy in the direction of sustainability, in particular, to move away from mass burn incineration towards alternative technologies and to minimise waste going to landfill, subject to the outcome of the review of the waste management strategy. This major international review being undertaken by the Department will address how best to implement waste prevention and minimisation, and the emergence of new technologies in waste management.”

 Progress on the review of waste management strategy

Consultants have been retained to conduct the study of waste policy options which will underpin the conclusion of the overall review later this year. This work is well advanced and a series of interim reports has been considered by the Review Steering Group. It is considered that the study itself should be concluded on time, July 2009, with policy proposals being brought to Government shortly thereafter.

 Interim policy measures

While this work is on target, it is acknowledged that progress towards meeting Ireland’s targets under the Landfill Directive and the requirements of the recently adopted Waste Framework Directive cannot wait. Therefore the Minister is pressing ahead with key initiatives which are compatible with the overall objectives of the review in order to meet the targets. These include:

  • increase in the landfill levy and the introduction of a levy on incineration;
  • roll-out of brown bin collections;
  • intensifying efforts to promote at source/home composting;
  • supporting small-scale local composting initiatives;
  • encouraging access to waste streams for composting/anaerobic digestion, recycling and other processes high on the waste hierarchy; and,
  • source segregated collection of commercial biowaste.

 The Minister has also initiated a Strategic Environmental Assessment on proposed policy directions to the EPA and local authorities which would (in relation to their functions under the Waste Management Acts and any instruments made thereunder), inter alia, require the recipients to:

  • limit incineration capacity to ensure that waste is not drawn to incineration which could have been dealt with by recycling or other methods higher up the waste hierarchy;
  • refrain from exercising their powers in such a way as to direct waste to landfill or incineration.

 The proposed policy direction is subject to consultation with both the public and all stakeholders, including local authorities.

 The above are interim actions intended to help meet the Landfill Directive targets while implementing the commitments in the Programme for Government. The Minister considers that they are in line with the policies emerging from the overall review.

 Queries in relation to this Circular may be addressed to the undersigned. 

 Yours sincerely,

­­­­­­Michael Layde

Principal Officer – Waste Policy: Review and Regulation

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