Ireland is to face fresh EU environmental sanctions within two years if it does not dramatically reduce the amount of biodegradable waste being dumped in landfill sites.
That is according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which claims the Government is in "significant danger" of missing its EU targets for diverting recyclable waste from landfill.
In a new report, the environment watchdog also says the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill is increasing despite a national commitment to recycling.
Minister for the Environment John Gormley last night admitted national waste policies were not working.
He said his waste policy review, which he announced in response to the granting of planning permission for the Poolbeg incinerator last November, and which he has said will demonstrate that large-scale incineration is unviable, will also focus on the landfill problem.
Almost 50 per cent more biodegradable waste, including food and garden waste, paper, cardboard, wood and textiles, is being sent to landfill than the target level for 2010. The EPA's National Waste Report 2006 found that the amount of biodegradable waste dumped increased by 9 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes, while the 2010 target is 967,000 tonnes.
Under the 1999 EU landfill directive, Ireland will be fined if it fails to meet the target. The directive also requires Ireland to put in place a biodegradable waste strategy to meet the target. Ireland published this strategy in 2006, but must now implement it as a matter of urgency, the EPA said.
"This report shows that the amount of waste going to landfill is increasing, not decreasing as we would have expected if Ireland is to meet its EU commitment to landfill less than one million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste by 2010. The EPA is calling for urgent action to reverse this trend," deputy EPA director Dr Padraic Larkin said.
The Government could meet the target, Dr Larkin said, if it was prepared to take measures such as banning untreated waste in landfills and increasing landfill levies.
Mr Gormley last night promised that these levies would be increased.
"It is clear that landfill has become more attractive as gate fees have fallen and this has happened at a time when Ireland needs to be making more progress towards diverting material, particularly biodegradable waste, away from landfill. I propose, therefore, to introduce an increase in the landfill levy at the earliest opportunity to encourage recycling."
The increasing quantity of waste going to landfill was keeping recycling rates lower than they should be, the EPA said. The recycling rate for household waste was static at 22 per cent in 2006 despite the introduction "in all parts of the country" the EPA said, of green and brown bins and recycling bring banks.
However, Mr Gormley said the roll-out of recycling bins by local authorities and the private sector was insufficient.
"To date, only a limited number of households have had brown bin collection services but I want to see all those engaged in waste collection - both public and private sector operators - accelerate their plans for the provision of segregated collections for organic waste."
Prevention of waste was the key to reducing landfill volumes, the EPA said. Despite significant increases in the quantity of packaging waste recycled, the rate of packaging waste recycling actually decreased from 59 per cent in 2005 to 57 per cent in 2006.
Mr Gormley said he was confident that the waste review would bring about the required landfill reductions.
Tipping point: rise in waste going to dumps
The EPA's National Waste Report 2006 found that the amount of biodegradable waste dumped increased by 9 per cent to 1.4 million tonnes, while the 2010 target is 967,000 tonnes.
The recycling rate for household waste was static at 22 per cent in 2006 despite the introduction "in all parts of the country" the EPA said, of green and brown bins and recycling bring banks
The Irish Times