LANDFILL costs for Dublin are to spiral in less than two years, as the Poolbeg incinerator project remains in limbo.
More stringent EU directives on burying waste in the ground will kick in after in 2013, ramping up the charges on local authorities.
And, as there is little or no chance of the Poolbeg plant being open for business by that time, the capital's refuse will continue to be landfilled.
Until next January, all of Dublin's household waste will be buried in sites in Wicklow and Kildare under Dublin City Council issued contracts.
The local authority is engaged in a process whereby it seeks tenders every six months from dump operators to accept the city's rubbish.
A total of 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste per year is produced in Dublin, costing about €12m to landfill at current rates. But the fees are to rise significantly.
"Ireland's obligations under the landfill directive are increasingly making it difficult to directly landfill untreated waste, with much more onerous obligations becoming effective in 2013," Fingal County Council said in a recent report.
Policy body Forfas has indicated the cost of waste disposal is a cause for concern in maintaining and making gains in international competitiveness.
Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding Poolbeg will enter a new phase in the coming months.
Private waste collectors have signalled their intent to tackle moves by the Government to "limit" competition in the waste sector, claiming the changes are merely a means of ensuring the planned facility is economically viable.
The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA) told the Herald it is "aghast" at what it sees as efforts to curtail the involvement of private operators in the market.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan has initiated a consultation process which will eventually inform changes in the household waste sector.
It is envisaged the bin collections will be "franchised" out to private companies but with local authorities retaining ultimate control. The IWMA told the Herald: "We are aghast at where it's going."
John Dunne -- who is a director of the association and also a manager with waste operators Panda -- said the changes would be "the biggest single challenge" that has faced private collectors.
In the consultation process, Mr Hogan raised the prospect of introducing the European model of having competition for the household waste market.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment told the Herald the consultation process is an "opportunity for all interested parties to input into the development of a policy framework that will shape our approach to waste management for the next decade and beyond".
He pointed out the discussion document raises a "range of issues". It specifically asks whether "waste generated by the community can be a resource".
Between July and December, some 150,000 tonnes of waste will have been taken from the capital to the Drehid landfill operated by Bord na Mona in Co Kildare and private waste company Greenstar's Ballynagran landfill in Co Wicklow.
Dublin no longer has any usable landfills following the closure of the Arthurstown site.