Waking up to waste… at last?

THE NI Affairs Committee has strongly criticised the Government for its belated efforts to meet EU targets on waste recycling. This could mean a fine of £180 million – and guess who pays? Looks like we’re nowhere near ‘waking up to waste’. In fact, we’re still fast asleep.

UTV Internet reported:

Chairman Michael Mates, said some years ago Northern Ireland was the first part of the UK to develop a waste management strategy in response to EU directives setting out how it would deal with the issue of waste.

“Unfortunately, progress in implementing that strategy has been lamentably slow, and there is now a real danger that Northern Ireland will fail to meet its first major EU target in 2010 and could incur substantial financial penalties,” he said.

In a damning indictment he added: “The absence of strong leadership by Northern Ireland departments has been a crucial factor in this disappointing result.”

He highlighted a failure of government to live up to a commitment to use the substantial purchasing power of the public sector to influence the market for recycled products.

“The Government must now demonstrate a much more proactive stance on waste management to ensure that the major potential difficulties identified in our report are avoided,” said Mr Mates.

Tony Clarke, chairman of the sub-committee which carried out the inquiry said it was now a race against time for Northern Ireland to meet its statutory obligations and protect the environment by developing more sustainable waste practices.

Mr Clarke said there were three major challenges which had to be tackled immediately.

:: A crisis in planning which had led to huge delays in reaching decisions on applications for waste management facilities. The Committee had been shocked to learn it could sometimes take up to ten years.

:: Those delays had created the knock on problem of existing landfill capacity rapidly becoming exhausted, a failure to identify replacement sites and alternatives to landfill, and the alienation of potential providers of such facilities.

:: No clear estimate of how much funding would be required to deal with waste over the life of the strategy existed – and there was not clear funding plan for how new infrastructure would be delivered.