In addition to the €25 million that will go towards the provision of 20 additional local authority recycling facilities, a market development group will also be created. This will be charged with the development of markets for recyclable materials. And the consideration of the study on application of economic instruments to chewing gum, fast-food packaging and ATM receipts will be finalised by mid-year.
"Managing waste costs money, burying waste costs more," said minister for the environment, heritage and local government Martin Cullen, who launched the report, titled Waste Management: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, earlier this month. "Nobody favours waste, but waste is a reality. Those advocating a zero waste policy have zero credibility."
On thermal treatment, the minister highlighted that planning permission has been granted for two facilities and the procurement of a third in Dublin is well advanced in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) process. In addition, two other regions are at earlier stages of the process towards procuring facilities by way of PPP's.
In response to the need for landfill capacity to meet our short term waste management requirements until the full range of recycling and thermal treatment facilities are in place, the situation has been relieved somewhat, with some 10 years capacity now remaining compared to 6 years in 2001.
Cullen emphasised this provides only a temporary solution. "We must continue the drive towards higher recycling and the delivery of thermal treatment capacity," he said. "The evidence shows that landfilling waste is the most damaging of all options. We must maintain the downward trend in our use of landfill and meet the ambitious EU and national targets we have set."
Cullen said that Ireland was now on track to tackle the issue of waste management. "Things have finally started to happen in dealing with Ireland's waste crisis but there can be no let up if we are to fully protect our environment," he said.
Some improvements have indeed been made. There are now over 1,700 recycling facilities nationwide and recycling in Dublin has increased by 300 per cent in three years.
In addition, the number of households with access to a service for the segregated collection of dry recyclables has rocketed. From an average of 70,000 households in 1998, the segregated service now extends to over 560,000 households representing 42 per cent of all households in the state. Over 52,000 of these households also have a third bin for organic waste.
"The regional approach to managing our waste is the right strategy," said Cullen. "Real challenges remain that must be met. The range of initiatives I have announced today will ensure that we are well equipped to continue to make progress."
Irish legislative action on waste management is in keeping with the general European trend, both within government and industry, toward actively tackling the issue. A survey published earlier this year suggested that packaging companies across Europe are beginning to take the EU's packaging and packaging waste directive's essential requirements very seriously.
The independent survey of Europen members showed that 65 per cent of those questioned already use the EN 13428 source reduction standard, developed by the European standards organisation CEN, to show that they are complying with the directive.
A further 12 per cent have internal procedures to demonstrate compliance. Of the remaining companies that have no procedure in place yet, all but one are currently based outside the EU in Accession States where compliance is not yet required.
What this means, according to Europen, the European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment, is that even without pan-European enforcement (only France and the UK currently act to ensure compliance), companies in the packaging chain are actively seeking to meet the essential requirements.
These survey results lend weight to Europen's argument that further obligations on companies in the packaging chain, such as the use of packaging environment indicators proposed by MEP Dorette Corbey last year, should not be considered until there is consistent enforcement of those that are currently in place across EU Member States, and a proper evaluation can be made of their effectiveness.