The Waste Management Plan for the Midlands Region 2005 to 2010 was adopted in February 2006. It set out specific objectives in relation to sustainable waste management in the Region, in accordance with the waste hierarchy. The plan set out targets of 46% Recycling, Energy Recovery 37%, Landfill Disposal 17%. As these targets were not fully met the plan was reviewed in 2011 and the lifespan of the plan was extended for a maximum of three years up to the 1st February 2014 or until government policy or legislation required otherwise.
In 2011, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG) established a National Coordination Committee (NCC) to assist local authorities and the wider waste regions with the evaluation process. A technical support working document was prepared through the work of the NCC to provide guidance in respect of the process. This evaluation of the Waste Management Plan for the Midlands Region had been carried out having regard to the Evaluation of Regional Waste Plan – Technical Support Working Document, the WFD and the new national waste policy document published in July 2012 by the DECLG. Of all the legislative changes that have occurred since the plan was made, the implementation of the WFD has had the most significant impact on waste management plans.
The WFD made it mandatory for member states to implement a five step waste hierarchy and obliges member states to move towards self-sufficiency. The working document stated that all waste management plans will ensure compliance with the ‘proximity’ and ‘self sufficiency’ principles. The objective of this policy is to increase recycling, promote resource efficiency and eliminate Ireland’s over reliance on landfill. The policy document promotes a shared services approach.
CHANGES TO THE WASTE HIERARCHY
Before the WFD, Ireland had a six step waste hierarchy in its national policy. WFD has mandated a five step waste hierarchy.
A Resource Opportunity – Waste Management Policy in Ireland, 2012 states that “a key objective of the new waste management plans will be to ensure a sufficiency of waste management infrastructure within the State to manage municipal waste”.
The application of the ‘proximity principle’ does not entail interpreting administrative waste management planning boundaries in such a manner as to inhibit the development of waste infrastructure which will support the attainment of national waste management policy objectives through the rational development and use of such infrastructure. In order to ensure compliance with this principle, the objectives of the Waste Management Plan for the Midlands Region 2005-2014, will have to be amended as they currently set out targets for biological treatment and thermal treatment capacity for the region and commit to providing landfill capacity in the region until thermal capacity is available. The current policy on inter-regional movement of waste is biased towards providing waste facility capacity within the region.
FUTURE RECYCLING PLANS
The direction in which sustainable waste management is intended to evolve over the coming years is not accurately reflected in the current plan. The intention by government to reduce the number of current waste management regions will undoubtedly have an influence on how waste in the Midlands Region is managed going forward. The availability of existing infrastructure and resources will also be a factor in determining future waste plans.
Significant progress has been made in raising awareness about recycling. It is recommended that more focus be placed on raising awareness of reuse and preparing for reuse in the future. There is a lack of understanding of the legislative framework for reuse and preparing for reuse. There is a need for national guidance on the topic and clarification of the legislative requirements. There is also a need for consideration of minimum thresholds for waste facility permits and waste licences to allow small scale reuse. The local authorities need knowledge before they can disseminate it to the householders, the community and commercial organisations. There is good potential for reuse initiatives in the Midlands Region with charity shops and a commercial and social enterprise organisation called Revamp.
Consideration should be given to shared service models for the collection of materials from Bring Banks and Recycling Centres to save on operational costs and make resources available to run good quality facilities with a broad range of materials and to ensure there is good coverage of facilities in rural areas not serviced by waste collectors. Any shared service contract should make provision for reuse activity, i.e. the diversion of items for reuse such as bicycles, furniture, toys, books, textiles and other bulky waste items.
It is recommended that there is a national initiative to increase the awareness amongst the public and the construction industry about recycled materials. There should be greater advertising of recycled materials so that the public has a choice when purchasing. The region suggests that operational quarries could apply for permission in their facility permits to stockpile recycled materials for restoration purposes. Clarification is needed on end of waste criteria for C&D waste materials to assist in their recycling and reuse in future construction projects.