The Sunday Business Post has reported that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, John Gormley TD is expected to recommend the establishment of a national waste management regulator, as part of waste policy proposals to be brought before the government shortly.
The Green Party leader has signalled that a radical change is needed to the current system, whereby local authorities regulate private waste companies, but are also involved in the €1.5 billion sector themselves. "I feel a regulator has to be put in place" - Gormley said at the National Waste Summit in Dublin recently. "New regulations are being prepared by my department and will be before me shortly."
There have been threats of legal action from private operators against Dublin City Council, which is considering taking over household waste collection in Dublin or putting the service out to tender.
"I know differences that have arisen between local authorities and private operators may be the subject of a court case" - the Minister said. "There is a lot of spin going on about private operators adding to greenhouse gases and so on. I believe they are doing good jobs and collecting recyclable materials - but, the current issues are ones to be mindful of when introducing regulation."
The Sunday Business Post previously revealed that the government is to strip local authorities of all regulatory powers over waste management as part of a national review of the sector, due to start early next year. A new regulatory body is now likely to take over these powers.
Minister Gormley said he would invite interested parties in the waste sector - including representatives of the Irish Waste Management Association, Ibec, Ictu and the Competition Authority - to talks at the Custom House in the New Year.
At the waste summit, the Competition Authority's head of advocacy, Declan Purcell, also questioned the role of local authorities in waste management. He said that dividing up the market and tendering segments of it would work best for consumers and the state in the long-term.
"A regulator could have a role - but not in setting prices, which would have to be linked to economies of scale. The same price could not be charged in west Mayo or Donegal as in Dublin" - Purcell said.
The waste summit focused on recent developments in the sector and the future of waste management.
The National Waste Summit was hosted by The Sunday Business Post and iQuest. Ulster Bank was gold sponsor of the event and RPS and Greenstar were silver sponsors.