A new Irish law allows for flexibility in plastic bag and landfill levies, introduces incineration tax and aims at driving waste up the waste hierarchy towards recycling and reuse.
"I want waste to be seen as a resource rather than as a problem. I believe if we view it as a resource, it can contribute to economic recovery, as it is put to new and innovative uses," said John Gormley, Irish Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government when the new law was published in January 2011.
Three billion tonnes of waste are thrown away each year in the European Union – amounting to about six tonnes of waste for every EU citizen. By 2020, the OECD estimates, the EU could be generating 45% more waste than it did in 1995. To reverse this trend, the EU has set out a number of policies that connect sustainable waste management with innovation, technology and growth. The Waste Framework Directive, revised in 2008, plays a central role towards this goal. The whole effort is embraced by the flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe that supports the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy to achieve sustainable growth.
According to the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, a range of regulatory, technological and market-based instruments has been used to improve waste management. These include source-separated collection of biowaste, pretreatment and restriction of particular waste streams to landfill.
The new law is based on two fundamental components:
"This Bill once enacted, will contribute to ensuring waste is diverted from landfill, through higher landfill levies. It will also encourage the development of alternative technologies to make the most of what is a valuable resource," concluded Minister Gormley.
The new law is expected to enter force once its full compliance with EU legislation has been ensured.
The ‘Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2011 Bill’:
Flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy:
Related information on the ETAP website:
The Waste Framework Directive sets the basic concepts related to waste management and lays down waste-management principles such as the ‘polluter pays’ and the waste hierarchy. This hierarchy aims at resource efficiency by prioritising waste-management approaches, from most to least desirable: