AN BORD Pleanála has been requested by waste management company Greenstar to defer an oral hearing on its plans for a recycling facility in Co Meath, due to a proposed change in the household waste collection regime.
Another waste management company, Panda, has reiterated its warning that it will take legal action against the Government if Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan proceeds with plans to introduce franchise bidding for waste collection.
The oral hearing on Greenstar’s plan to develop an anaerobic digestion plant for the treatment of organic waste at Knockharley, near Kentstown, Co Meath, was due to open next Monday, but the company has sought a deferral until next April.
“We have unfortunately had to take this decision due to the uncertain policy environment that now surrounds anaerobic digestion and other recycling technologies which may be made unviable through recent governmental moves”, according to Greenstar.
Chief executive Rosheen McGuckian said: “Given the fundamental nature of the policy changes under discussion at present it is just not possible for us to inform an oral hearing on key areas such as inputs to and outputs from the proposed plant.”
The policy changes were put forward last June by the Department of the Environment in a discussion document Altering the Structure of Household Waste Collection Markets , which would have the effect of giving back control of the market to local authorities.
As a result, Ms McGuckian said, “We don’t know whether waste we recycle at present would in the future be directed to our own recycling plants or to the Poolbeg incinerator” – a 600,000-tonne facility being planned by US waste management company Covanta.
The Minister has abolished a levy on incineration, and Greenstar sees proposals to review exemptions from the landfill levy as a “further threat to the viability of organic waste treatment”.
Under existing legislation, the inert soil output from anaerobic digestion plants may be landfilled at no cost. “To remove this exemption would expose any landfilled output from anaerobic digestion to the full cost of recently increased landfill levies”, Ms McGuckian said.
“The Government has already removed the possibility of environmental levies on incineration, a competitor technology to anaerobic digestion. To turn around and place levies on it would kill this renewable energy technology completely”, she warned.
In its 72-page submission on plans to introduce franchise tenders for waste contracts, Panda managing director Eamon Waters said it believed “the real intention behind this proposal is to take control of waste to ensure that it can be sent to the Poolbeg incinerator”.
He said this amounted to “special treatment for an individual private company” (Covanta) and was both “unfair and unjustified [as] no credible reliable expert evidence whatsoever has been produced to justify the dismantling of the current side-by-side competition”.
As a result, Panda’s financing for the next phase of its recycling facility in Rathdrinagh, near Slane, Co Meath, was “in jeopardy”, Mr Waters said.