New waste taxes urged to encourage more recycling
The State should introduce taxes on certain types of waste to encourage 'good' behaviour and increase recycling rates, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.
A deposit scheme for cans and bottles, a requirement that pharmacists take back old medicines, and a ban on certain types of packaging, should all be considered to reduce the amount of waste being generated. And there is also a requirement to invest in new waste facilities, the EPA said, including a third incinerator to serve the south of Ireland, and several composting facilities.
A levy on the export of certain waste streams should also be introduced to help drive investment in new infrastructure.
EPA spokesman Dr Jonathan Derham also suggested a portion of waste bills be ringfenced to invest in bring-banks and other community waste facilities. There are around 2,000 across the country.
"But we could do with more," he said. "When people are paying their bills, should a portion be used to fund these?
"I think the State will consider more waste taxation schemes to foster good behaviour. The plastic bag levy, and landfill levy, were very successful. They could look at putting deposit return for bottles and cans, which should be so easy and encourages positive behaviour.
"We might also look at producer responsibility schemes for household medicines where they could be taken back to the pharmacy for safe recovery. The taxation could be on the production side to foster sustainable activities, which could include making equipment more repairable."
A new pay-by-weight waste system will be introduced on July 1 next, which will charge households based on the amount of rubbish they produce. Black bin waste will be the most expensive stream to dispose of, followed by brown compostable waste, and then green recyclable waste.
Families which make efforts to recycle more will pay less, and the Department of the Environment expects 440,000 fewer tonnes of black bin waste to be landfilled every year.
But even with the changes, there would still be a need for infrastructure to process waste streams, particularly as the amount being generated is expected to increase as the economic recovery takes hold.
"There is scope for another waste-to-energy incinerator to serve Cork and Limerick, even with the very best recycling rates. There is sufficient mass in the southern region to merit another incinerator," Dr Derham said.
"Ireland has no hazardous waste incineration, and we export it to other counties, but we're marketing ourselves as the best place for the pharma-chem industry to set up.
"We have to move quickly to separate collection for all households and move to a three-bin service to everywhere in the State. We also need more anaerobic digestion (composting plants which produce energy) which is expensive to build but takes sewage sludge and by-products from the dairy processing industry, and leaves you with a good fertiliser."
The Irish Waste Management Association said it was difficult for paper mills, glass reprocessing plants and metal smelters to compete globally given the size of the market in Ireland.
One member company, Stream Bioenergy, had plans to develop anaerobic digestion plants in Dublin and Cork with capacity for 90,000 tonnes each.
Construction of a waste-to- energy plant in Dublin, the controversial Poolbeg Incinerator, is underway for 2017.
Indaver, which operates the incinerator in Co Meath, said it was "engaging" with stakeholders in relation to a new plant in Ringaskiddy in Cork.