Councils ready to vote on waste plan for region

 

A controversial waste management plan for the South East, which includes thermal treatment, is to be decided in a matter of weeks.

The south-east regional waste management strategy will be voted on by local authorities between June 10th and June 17th. The authorities include Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford and South Tipperary county councils and Waterford City Council.

The strategy, which has been on public display, may be amended by councillors - but if they fail to adopt it the power to do so will be transferred to the region's city and county managers in July.

The main elements of the strategy are to recycle or reuse up to 60 per cent of the region's waste, with about one-third being sent for incineration.

The timetable for the strategy is to begin the recycling, reuse, composting and public awareness elements of the plan immediately, but delaying the introduction of thermal treatment to 2008 .

To manage the current levels of waste it will be necessary to identify new landfill sites or seek extensions to the life of existing ones, which are all due to reach capacity over the next two years.

However, this is not an easy task as the EU has criticised a number of landfills in the southeast, particularly the Tramore tiphead in Co Waterford. This, the EU says, "gives serious cause for concern, as the site is next to an internationally renowned wetland and major seaside resort". Concern has also been voiced about the continuation of the region's other landfill sites.

But the most controversial element of the strategy is likely to be incineration or thermal treatment, particularly the location of an incinerator. Councillors who will vote on the strategy next week will not be asked to decide on the location of the incinerator, only to approve it in principle. Targets in the plan reflect the national strategy, which is to divert 50 per cent of waste away from landfill, to divert 65 per cent of biodegradable waste and recycle 35 per cent of municipal waste.

Provision is to be made for immediate and rapid deployment of bottle banks and bring centres.

Together, the local authorities are responsible for the waste from a population of just over 400,000 and this is expected to rise to 423,000 during the life of the plan. All the local authorities in the South East have employed public awareness officers to implement an environmental campaign.

During the consultation period meetings were held at which representatives of participating authorities and consultants answered questions on the strategy. Issues raised included concern about a centralised waste management facility, which will in time house the incinerator.

The issues were dealt with by Prof James Heffron of UCC, an expert in biochemical toxicology.