Days of the dump are numbered, Minister says


The Minister for the Environment has clarified his instructions that local authorities should co-operate on their waste management projects.

While Mr Dempsey was "reasonably happy" with the progress of county councils in adopting new waste management plans, he acknowledged there were fears that regional co-operation would lead to massive regional landfill dumps.

The Minister said yesterday the purpose of "regional municipal waste landfills" referred to in his national strategy presented last October, was to provide economies of scale for the provision of waste reclamation projects such as waste to energy, re-use, recycling and other treatments.

In this strategy the Minister sees a "major shift" away from landfill, saying "the days of landfill, which currently caters for almost 92 per cent of municipal waste, are numbered".

But The Irish Times has learned that by the end of December last, every local authority charged with waste management had applied to the Environmental Protection Agency for a licence to operate "large scale" dumps.

Applications for "small scale" dumps are still being received.

An EPA spokeswoman said the definitions "large" and "small" were relative to the size of the population served by the dumps and did not approximate to defined sizes.

In addition, Mr Dempsey acknowledges that many counties have not yet formally adopted the waste management strategies.

He says the strategy is a long-term one, with five-, 15-and 20-year targets.

"Part of the problem is that there are so few `bring' centres - I opened one recently in Co Clare. The county councils are doing a good job with the voluntary bodies but they have to be developed," he said.

Mr Dempsey says the strategy aims to change the mindset that considers "we can still dig a hole in the ground and bury our waste" to one which begins with waste prevention, minimisation, re-use, recycling and the environmentally sustainable disposal of waste which cannot be prevented or disposed.

The Minister says there are many things besides glass recycling which must be done to reduce waste.

While any one local authority may not have the volume to set up sustainable waste-to-energy projects or economically viable paper recycling, regional co-operation "would make these things possible".

"We need to make the `bring' centres better so that there are all sorts of facilities for composting as well as others," he said.

The Minister was speaking as he brought his used Christmas cards to Boots in Grafton Street, Dublin, yesterday, to be recycled as part of an initiative undertaken between Boots and the Tree Council of Ireland to recycle 300,000 Christmas cards.

During January and February members of the public are invited to bring their used cards to recycling bins in any Boots store.

All funds raised will go towards tree-planting projects across the State.

The Minister noted that a similar scheme in the UK had collected more than 600 tonnes of cards - the equivalent of saving 10,500 trees.

He also said he was a sorry to part with his collection as "we usually keep them up until [today] which is my birthday and we have another celebration at Little Christmas".