The ESRI has published “An Economic Approach to Municipal Waste Management Policy in Ireland“. The Report provides a roadmap for managing municipal waste in an efficient way that minimises the costs to society.
The Report states that Ireland is at an important junction in municipal waste management policy. Significant progress has been made in encouraging the use of recycling as an alternative to landfill. Ireland has to meet legally binding EU Landfill Directive targets that will become increasingly difficult to meet in 2013 and 2016.
The Report argues that markets do not always work well in waste management so government intervention is merited and should be directed at improving the way markets work. If successful, this will enhance Ireland’s economic development and competiveness. It suggests two ways in which waste markets do not work well:
– in handling greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and disamenities such as dust & noise; and,
– in addressing the potential for market power, particularly in household waste collection.
Since geographical markets for waste services such as collection are local or regional, policy making should allow for local variations as well as co-operation for where markets are wider.
The roadmap for municipal waste policy developed in the Report recommends:
(i) a cap and trade system be introduced to meet the EU Landfill Directive targets for 2013 and 2016;
(ii) the imposition of levies per tonne of municipal waste, depending on the method of waste disposal:
– Landfill: €44.24 to €54.89 per tonne
– Urban Incineration: €4.22 to €5.07 per tonne
– Rural Incineration: €0.42 to €0.50 per tonne
– Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT): €0.92 to €1.45 per tonne.
The levies are based on the unpriced environmental and disamenity impact of the particular waste disposal method; and,
(iii) competitive tendering for household waste collection, which would address any market power problems.
The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is also proposing a new waste management policy. Two vital ingredients in that policy are:
– the proposed Section 60 policy direction to cap incineration and other matters; and,
– the international review of waste management policy, which contains twenty-five recommendations.
The Report questions whether these ingredients provide a coherent and feasible basis on which to develop waste policy. Arbitrary limits on incineration and consequent expansion of MBT have no place in waste management policy. The international review’s setting of residual waste levies is flawed, suffering from both double regulation and double counting, with the result that some of the proposed levies are much higher than is appropriate. It does not provide the basis for a waste management policy that will create jobs, enhance competitiveness, and meet the EU Landfill Directive targets.
The Report was commissioned by Dublin City Council.
Municipal waste is defined as household waste as well as commercial and other waste which, because of its nature or composition, is similar to household waste. It excludes sludges and effluents.
Biodegradable municipal waste means the biodegradable component of municipal waste, which is typically composed of food and garden waste, wood, paper, cardboard and textiles.
A cap and trade system involves trading of allowances or rights to dispose of one tonne of waste into landfill, where the total allowance is strictly limited or ‘capped’. The overall cap would be set by the Landfill Directive targets.
The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government can issue a Policy Direction under Section 60 of the Waste Management Act 1996, to the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities concerning the exercise of their relevant functions under the Act in relation to, for example, municipal waste incineration capacity.
Landfill Directive Council Directive1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste. The aim of this directive is, by way of stringent operational and technical requirements on the waste and landfills, to provide for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air, and on the global environment, including the greenhouse effect, as well as any resulting risk to human health, from landfilling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill.