Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Mr Alan Kelly spoke recently at the Environment Ireland Conference organised by the EPA and the Department. I was not there but on reading the report by Caroline O’Doherty of the Irish Examiner it would seem that this new minister feels it incumbent on him to rectify the mess that the recycling industry finds itself in. His predecessor had presided over the industry for many years and had been made aware from all sectors of the problems. The public and everyone associated with waste had been invited to make submissions to him and his department which culminated in the delivery of ‘A Resource Opportunity’ policy on waste management published in July 2012.

This policy document sought to set out the measures through which Ireland will make the further progress necessary to become a recycling society, with a clear focus on resource efficiency and the virtual elimination of land filling of municipal waste.’ It sounded great and in its foreword then Minister Hogan stated that refuse companies had to incentivise their customers to segregate their waste, and then jumped into a photo shoot with the launch of City Bin charging a flat rate for all three bins, the exact opposite of what was needed to comply with his own policy document. Greyhound were dogged with huge problems with City Bin’s charging system, eventually having to follow the same route themselves with regard to their ex Dublin City Council waiver customers so as to retain them. However charging less to hang on to customers otherwise destined to switch to the heavily financially backed City Bin by Averda, has led to their need to reduce costs and wages which has them still tied up in the labour court to try and resolve. Panda and Thornton’s charging models to name just two did heavily incentivise their customers to recycle, and when practiced by households the annual costs for their refuse collection did reflect the effort they put in. So why Hogan allowed the flat rate to even start is beyond me, but possibly Enda looking for photo shoots and keen to announce inward investment and jobs from any where may have put Hogan in the back seat on that occasion.

Year on year Dr Jonathan Derham of our EPA could be heard on Irelands RTE radio 1 ‘ Morning Ireland’ congratulating Ireland on achieving its recycling targets, however he was always scathing of the amount of mixed waste that was being exported from Ireland to Sweden for ‘ Heat Recovery’. So if year on year we were producing more mixed waste then obviously we were not recycling as much as we could, and as long as the waste was not going to land fill then of course we were achieving our landfill diversion targets. Heat Recovery satisfies the EU’s requirement for waste treatment but not stipulating that mixed waste must be screened for recyclables in its country of origin prior to shipping for Incineration / Heat Recovery, left the back door wide open for Irelands waste to be cheaply exported. In 2012 80K Tonnes of MSW or Municipal Solid Waste was exported for Heat Recovery and 2013 saw this figure rise to 360K Tonnes, plus 3 brown Bin processing centres here in Ireland changed over to processing Black bin Fines, the organic fraction left over from Black bin waste processing.

Our own EPA, Zero Waste Scotland and the CIWM commissioned a report to be carried out into the practice of waste being exported at such large scales both from Ireland and the UK such was the concern, and its effects on our Circular Economy also as resources exported and incinerated could never be returned. I will be receiving the findings of that report soon and can publish them for you all to see, but it does highlight the preferred option by the industry was to export as much as possible. So lets hope that our new minister Alan Kelly can stand up to the waste industry giants, enforce what was published in ‘A Resource Opportunity’ policy document and nail all doors shut with the final regulations to be published in 2015. These new regulations will see an end to flat rate bin charges and a move to per kilo weight lift charges only being applied, and stiff penalties being imposed on refuse collectors who do not comply with their charter, especially with the roll out of the Brown Bin. Minister Kelly also referred to ‘Below Cost Selling’ by refuse collectors as being a race to the bottom, had a destabilising effect on the market and hindered badly needed investment in the waste treatment sector. I would agree with him on every point as would all of the recycling industry, but I will close on this question ” Pool Beg will it leave us with anything to recycle as we struggle to feed its 600K tonne hunger 24/7″ ?
Denis Lawlor
Owner Brown Bin Rescue