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New initiative for resource-efficient waste management in Ireland

28/07/2011

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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:

  • Greater flexibility is given in setting the levies for plastic bags and for landfill. For plastic bags, the levy which was increased to €0.22 in 2007 can now reach up to €0.70. Similarly, for landfills, the upper limit has been set to €120 per tonne of waste; and
  • A newly introduced element is that a similar levy can now be applied on waste that is incinerated. The goal is to ensure that incineration has no competitive advantage over other waste-management options that are higher up the waste hierarchy.

"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.

More information:

The ‘Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) 2011 Bill’:
http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Environment/Miscellaneous/FileDownLoad,25107,en.pdf

Flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe under the Europe 2020 strategy:
http://ec.europa.eu/resource-efficient-europe/

Related information on the ETAP website:

Waste is food: going all the way on sustainability

EU Waste Framework Directive

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:

  • Prevention;
  • Reuse;
  • Recycling;
  • Recovery – such as energy recovery;
  • Disposal.

More information:

‘GDP and Beyond: Measuring Progress in a Changing World’; COM (2009) 433 final:

‘Monitoring Economic Performance, Quality of Life and Sustainability’; CAE and GCEE report; [2 MB]

Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress; français

EP Committee on Regional Development;

EP Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.