Local authorities in Dublin are planning to make it a legal requirement that a large proportion of waste collected by private firms in the Dublin area is sent for incineration.
The councils are to insist that the bulk of waste now going to landfill must instead be sent for thermal treatment once the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg is open and operational.
The move is being seen by some private waste firms as an attempt to ensure that the Poolbeg incinerator will be commercially viable, a charge that the local authorities reject. Legal challenges by private waste firms are expected when the requirement is introduced.
The direction is expected to be included in all new waste permits issued to private waste firms and will stipulate that a specific proportion of the non-recyclable waste collected is sent for thermal treatment. The amount of waste involved could be as high as 300,000 tonnes.
Representatives of waste firms were informed of the proposal at a meeting with local authority officials last month to discuss a major review of the current
waste permit system. At present there is no stipulation in permits directing firms on where they should take their waste.
Assistant city manager Matt Twomey, who is responsible for waste policy in the Dublin region, said the direction was in line with the region's waste management policy.
He said the policy stipulated that thermal treatment was seen as a better environmental option than landfill and that this hierarchy should be adhered to.
"It's an objective in the waste-management policy to direct waste to the appropriate facilities in the waste hierarchy," he said. "The objective is to achieve the best possible diversion away from landfill."
He said there would also be directions on organic material such as kitchen and garden waste, requiring it to be sent for biological treatment, which will be available at two facilities currently being planned.
Materials collected for recycling would remain unaffected by the thermal treatment direction. He rejected suggestions that the direction would amount to a landfill ban. "There will always be a requirement for landfill," he said.
Mr Twomey also rejected suggestions that the direction could be anti-competitive, as the council will operate the only incinerator in the region. Similar directions were in place in other jurisdictions and had been upheld by the European courts.
Representatives of waste firms were not commenting in public on the proposed direction until it is published in the coming months, as part of the permit review plans. It is understood that a number of firms are to consider legal challenges against any such proposal.
Discussions are ongoing between the council and owners of the private firm which won the contract to design, build and operate the facility.
Danish Oil and Natural Gas (Dong) the new owners of Elsam, which won the contract, has sought significant changes to the financing of the contract, which the council has rejected.
A decision on the future involvement of Dong is expected in the coming weeks, but Dublin City Council has insisted it will not affect the timetable of the incinerator project.
© 2007 The Irish Times