FF fudges policy on thermal treatment of waste


Fianna Fáil has claimed to be greener than any other party on environmental issues, but its new "Blueprint for a Cleaner Greener Ireland" launched yesterday fudges the party's support for thermal treatment of municipal waste.

The policy document makes no mention of incineration as a means of final disposal, even though it pledges to "continue the substantial progress already made along the road towards reducing the number of landfills [throughout the State] to 20".

It promises to extend "the hugely successful levy on plastic bags", proposed in 1997 and introduced five years later, to containers such as PET (polyethylene) bottles and aluminium cans - a measure that was also promised in its 1997 policy document.

That document said it was "a national scandal that landfill remains the primary method for the disposal of waste".

Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, had to concede that this situation had not changed; it was still "a national scandal".

Despite not mentioning incineration , he insisted that Fianna Fáil was "honest on environmental issues. We don't fudge. We don't dress up our policies with fanciful notions of zero waste" - an oblique reference to the Green Party's policy.

"We will ensure that the waste that remains - something that other parties seem to think they can magic away - will be dealt with in the safest, most environmentally friendly way possible," he said, by following "international best practice."

Building on the 15 cent tax on plastic bags, which has reduced their use by up to 90 per cent, Mr Dempsey said Fianna Fáil "will target other litter polluting products such as takeaway packaging and chewing gum" with a clean-up levy at the point of sale.

Weight-based charges for refuse collection are to be introduced over the next three years, according to the latest Fianna Fáil blueprint, to provide an additional incentive for recycling, while extending door-to-door collection of recyclables to most towns by 2006.

At least 50 per cent of construction and demolition waste is to be recycled by next year and the same deadline is set for starting to implement "producer responsibility" to take back used cars, tyres, batteries, newsprint and electronic equipment.

"Higher, more verifiable targets for recycling packaging waste" than the 25 per cent level agreed with the EU were pledged in 1997 and were recycled again yesterday, with a specific promise that Ireland would reach the EU recovery target of 50 per cent in 2005.

By the end of next year, according to the document, "none of our big cities and towns will be discharging untreated sewage into the sea" and all urban areas with a population of between 2,000 and 10,000 would meet the requirements of the EU Waste Water Directive. The end of 2003 has also been set as a deadline for group water schemes to meet EU quality requirements. Pollution threats posed by phosphorous and nitrates in agriculture are to be addressed "through good farming practice", the policy document says. On the national climate change strategy, it claims that implementation of measures already announced or under way in the first year would yield 20 per cent of the required reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. "We will achieve our targets", the Minister declared. However, he conceded that some of the promises made by Fianna Fáil in 1997 had not been kept - notably the introduction of differentiated first-time house purchasers' grants and urban renewal tax breaks to favour more energy-efficient housing.