- The Proposed National Hazardous Waste Management Plan is published by the Environmental Protection Agency for public consultation.
- Its primary objectives are to prevent and minimise hazardous waste and to manage, in an environmentally-sound manner, hazardous waste which cannot be prevented.
- The quantity of hazardous waste generated in 2006 was 284,184 tonnes, an 8 per cent decrease since 2004.
- A period of public consultation is now open and written submissions are sought until 31 January 2008.
The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released a Proposed National Hazardous Waste Management Plan for the prevention, reduction and management of hazardous waste in Ireland. The primary objectives of the Proposed Plan are to prevent and minimise hazardous waste and to manage, in an environmentally-sound manner, hazardous waste which cannot be prevented.
The largest quantity of hazardous waste is generated by Irish industry and includes such materials as industrial solvents, waste oils, industrial sludges and chemical wastes. Households, small businesses, farms and the healthcare and construction sectors also generate large quantities of hazardous waste including batteries, electrical equipment, healthcare risk waste, solvent based paint, varnish waste, sheep dip and fluorescent lamps.
“The bulk of hazardous waste generated by industry is well managed,” said Dr Gerry Byrne, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use, “and therefore the focus for industrial sectors is on minimising the quantity of hazardous waste generated. In other sectors such as households, small businesses and farms, there is room for improvement in the collection of hazardous waste. We must establish improved and tailored systems for the management and collection of this hazardous waste”.
The quantity of hazardous waste generated in 2006 was 284,184 tonnes, an 8 per cent decrease since 2004. The majority of this waste is generated by Irish industry and is generally managed properly. Some 48 per cent of Irish hazardous waste is exported for treatment and disposal, mostly for thermal treatment (incineration and use as fuel), but also for metal recovery, solvent recovery and landfill. The balance is treated at the industrial facilities where it is generated or in a network of 15 authorised hazardous waste treatment facilities in Ireland.
The EPA recommends a policy of moving towards self-sufficiency. It says of the 48% of hazardous waste exported in 2006, a significant proportion could be dealt with in Ireland at existing authorised facilities and in cement kilns. If Ireland were to become fully self-sufficient, hazardous waste landfill and incineration would be required. It noted that while a hazardous waste incinerator is licensed to operate in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork, there are no equivalent proposals on hand for hazardous waste landfill.
The Proposed Plan makes 30 recommendations dealing with:
- the prevention of hazardous waste;
- the collection of hazardous waste and the enforcement of hazardous waste regulations;
- infrastructure self-sufficiency in hazardous waste management;
- legacy issues such as contaminated soil and old landfills;
- north-south potential for all-island solutions and
- implementation of the plan.
A prevention programme is proposed to reduce the gross generation of hazardous waste in certain priority industrial sectors and in households. The EPA will lead this work under its National Waste Prevention Programme.
A comprehensive and accessible network of local drop-off facilities for householders and small businesses is recommended with certain commercial sectors also highlighted for priority attention in this regard.
A move towards more self-sufficiency is recommended. Of the 48 per cent of hazardous waste exported, a significant proportion could be dealt with in Ireland at existing authorised facilities and by co-incineration. If Ireland were to become fully self-sufficient, hazardous waste landfill and incineration would be required.
Over 90 per cent of contaminated soil is exported for treatment. Greater treatment of contaminated soil in Ireland is recommended to ensure that treated soil is available for re-use.
North-south potential for all-island solutions
With the easing of restrictions in UK policy for the movement of hazardous waste between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an all-island market for hazardous waste disposal is now possible. Such a market for hazardous waste recovery has existed for some time. The Plan recommends that the scope for all-island developments be explored in the context of hazardous waste prevention and collection initiatives and infrastructural development.
The principal implementing bodies for the proposed plan are the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the EPA and local authorities. The private sector, through public-private partnerships, also has an important role in the provision of infrastructure. Each recommendation has a timeline and progress will be reported annually by the EPA.
Strategic environmental assessment
The Proposed Plan has undergone a Strategic Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and the Environmental Report is also available for public consultation.
Waste industry's response to Revised National Hazardous Waste Management Plan
The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), the group that represents the private waste industry, today welcomed the EPA plan, but said that the plan needs to be supported by better Government policy if it is to succeed.
IWMA Director Erik O’Donovan said: "Ireland compares poorly to other EU countries in terms of waste management infrastructure. The EPA’s proposed plan makes it clear that if Ireland wants to be self-sufficient in the management of hazardous waste, it must promote the development of competitive indigenous waste treatment facilities and encourage markets for the energy and products created from the treatment of that waste. Tackling regulatory uncertainty would go along way towards achieving that objective."
The IWMA has identified the following challenges to the goal of improved indigenous waste infrastructure and markets, which the Government must address:
Regulatory inconsistency: The new hazardous waste plan should be integrated into Ireland's other waste management plans and the National Development Plan to better facilitate its implementation and delivery.
Regulatory uncertainty: The industry has experienced regulatory delays of up to 46 months in developing waste infrastructure, waste services and markets for its customers. A promised regulatory review of the rules governing waste collection is still ongoing after two years. This uncertainty must be addressed by Government as a matter of urgency.
Market development: Infrastructure and services become a reality when economically viable. A policy initiative to encourage market development for the management of hazardous waste is needed.