MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley plans to issue a policy directive to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the local authorities placing limits on the volumes of waste going for incineration.
In the meantime, they have been told that the Minister is “pressing ahead” with initiatives compatible with the overall objectives of his review of waste management policy, including an increase in the landfill levy and the introduction of a levy on incineration.
A circular letter issued last Friday by Michael Layde, principal officer for waste policy in the Department of the Environment, says local authorities should intensify efforts to promote home composting and other small-scale local composting initiatives.
They were also told to roll out brown bin collections, encourage access to waste streams for composting or anaerobic digestion, recycling and other processes high on the EU “waste hierarchy”, and promote segregated collection of commercial bio-waste.
These “interim actions” are intended to help meet the EU Landfill Directive targets while implementing commitments in the programme for government. “The Minister considers that they are in line with the policies emerging from the overall review,” the circular says.
It notes that the programme for government (agreed by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party in 2007) put an emphasis on moving away from the high reliance on incineration foreseen in national and regional waste management plans.
“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,” it says, adding that this was intended to minimise waste going to landfill or incineration.
The circular notes that a consultancy review of waste policy options is well advanced. This study should be concluded next month, with “policy proposals being brought to government shortly thereafter”.
The Minister has also initiated a strategic environmental assessment on proposed policy directions requiring the EPA and local authorities to “limit incineration capacity to ensure that waste is not drawn to incineration which could have been dealt with by recycling”.
The proposed directions would also tell them to “refrain from exercising their powers in such a way as to direct waste to landfill or incineration”.
The Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment, which opposes plans for an incinerator at Ringaskiddy, described the circular as very significant. “These clear moves away from incineration leave Indaver’s incinerator with no role to play in waste management,” it said in a statement.