Policy on waste management in crisis, says expert


PROPOSALS BY the Minister for the Environment John Gormley to extend landfill taxes to incinerators mistakenly place landfill dumping on a par with energy recovery, one of the State’s leading waste experts has said.

PJ Rudden, who spent more then a decade formulating the State’s regional waste management plans, sharply criticised Mr Gormley’s proposals to undermine the financial viability of incineration.

Mr Rudden said he believed Irish waste management policy was now “in crisis” and the Minister’s own department had advised that delays in meeting EU targets to divert waste from landfill would cost the State hundreds of millions of euro in fines.

Mr Rudden also described the Minister’s preferred waste management solution, mechanical biological treatment (MBT) as “pretreatment of waste for landfill”.

He said the Minister was being incorrectly advised and the result would be a lot of waste going to landfill which was the worst option in the waste management hierarchy.

Mr Rudden told The Irish Timesthat extending hefty landfill taxes to energy recovery – which in the case of the Poolbeg incinerator included district heating – represented “a tax on the smart economy at a time of energy insecurity and rising oil prices.

“This goes against the recommendations of the innovation task force and I wonder, does the Taoiseach really know what Mr Gormley is doing,” he asked.

Mr Gormley has in the past described MBT as “recycling to the nth degree” and this week said he would increase waste landfill and incineration levies up to a maximum of €120 per tonne under new legislation.

Mr Gormley said the new legislation would be designed to place higher levies per tonne on incinerators which had high capacity: “in order to have the dissuasive effect required, those who process more will pay more” he said.

Dublin City Council’s press office referred questions to Mr Rudden as he is the council’s waste management consultant.

However, it is well known the council believes the new legislation was written specifically to undermine the viability of the Poolbeg incinerator proposed for Mr Gormley’s Dáil constituency.

Waste management sources also said they believed the move to place disposal at landfill on a par with energy recovery would be challenged in the courts. “Under the EU waste management hierarchy, energy recovery is preferable to landfill. It is very difficult to see how this legislation would not be challenged”, one source said.