Speech by Phil Hogan at The National Waste Summit
Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D.
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government
National Waste Summit
Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin
Thursday, 28th November 2013
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to address the 11th National Waste Summit in the wonderful setting of the Croke Park Conference Centre. Unfortunately, I have had fewer than normal opportunities to come here this year although I fully expect normal service to resume in 2014. I would like to thank Adrian Hopkins of the Sunday Business Post and the Director of today’s Summit for his kind invitation to address you today. I am very pleased to see so many national and international experts here today to discuss developments in waste management in Ireland.
In my remarks today, I would like to concentrate on four specific areas;
• Firstly, I wish to give you an update on my current thinking regarding the transposition of the recast WEEE Directive following the recent consultation with stakeholders,
• I am also launching a consultation document on the regulation of our household waste collection system,
• In the area of producer responsibility, I will be launching the latest two reports from the review of the Producer Responsibility Initiative and these reports concern Waste Tyres and End of Life Vehicles.
Household Waste Collection Consultation Paper
Today I am also launching a consultation document on the regulation of our household waste collection system. A Resource Opportunity recognises that the performance of the household waste collection market in particular has a crucial role to play in achieving overall policy objectives and meeting national targets on landfill diversion. I have previously identified a number of shortcomings with the existing regulatory regime including:
• low rates of householder participation in some areas.
• insufficient levels of prevention and reuse of waste.
• insufficient levels of segregation of household waste.
• pricing issues, including pricing structures which do not incentivise sustainable behaviours.
• concerns in relation to meeting the State’s legal obligations under EU law, where the State is currently not achieving some obligations and is at risk of not meeting others in the future.
• potential competition and corporate governance issues.
• other social and environmental failures such as illegal waste activities.
• insufficient or ineffective implementation of the polluter pays principle in cases where industry does not take appropriate responsibility for the end of life treatment of their products.
To address these I undertook to develop a strengthened household waste permitting system under which collectors would be required to:
• manage the waste collected in accordance with the waste hierarchy and in a manner supportive of the development of a resource efficient and sustainable approach to the management of waste;
• deliver mandated service levels; and
• operate pricing structures designed to incentivise environmentally sustainable behaviours by households in terms of waste reduction and segregation.
The discussion paper I am launching today is intended to facilitate a dialogue with the public and key stakeholders including representatives from the waste industry, statutory bodies such as local authorities, the EPA, the National Transfrontier Shipment Office, environmental NGOs and others. Following the 8 week consultation process, ending on 31 January 2014, I will consider the submissions received and work up proposals for a package of regulatory reform of household waste collection in Ireland.
I have so many things to launch today that it would take too much time to go through the full paper! So, I will focus on a couple of key elements for now and let you read and fully digest the rest of the contents in due course. I would like to provide an outline of the main content of the paper.
The section on pricing structures is, of course, a key focus. The Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) which accompanied the publication of A Resource Opportunity concluded that the option of price regulation (the setting of prices, price floors, price ceilings etc.) would be inappropriate. However, the RIA also noted that defining the components of price structure by regulation for environmental purposes would not constitute price regulation in the commonly understood sense, that is, prices would not be set, or price ceilings or price floors applied by regulation.
The section on pricing takes the 2011 Study of Pay-by-Use Systems for Maximising Waste Reduction Behaviour in Ireland as its starting point.
That study found that per kilogramme weight-based charges are the single most effective system for influencing household behaviour in terms of waste prevention, recycling and diversion from landfill. It projected that if the 80% of those households across Ireland currently on pay per lift / tags and differential bin systems switched to ‘per kg’ based systems, it could lead to an annual diversion from landfill of approximately 446,000 tonnes of domestic waste per annum.
The paper points strongly in that direction and asks:
• how we should effect the move to pay per kg
• how best to achieve an appropriate balance between pay per kg and a standing charge so as to ensure that the majority of a collection fee is not hidden in the standing charge thereby undoing the benefits of pay per kg, and;
• what the appropriate transitional period should be for a move to pay per kg, and whether the green bin should be charged at €0 per kg (i.e. continue to be free).
I am also seeking views on appropriate actions to be taken against a collector who fails to comply with any new pricing structure and the possible inclusion of general conditions with all permits setting out the requirements of the new pricing structure.
The paper also includes sections on the need for controls to ensure that only “fit and proper” individuals and companies are allowed to hold waste collection permits. It sets out a range of possible reforms of the waste collection permitting regime in terms of introducing different classes of waste collection permit and associated suitable permit fees and reform of the fee structure should be reformed so that permit fees for household waste collection properly reflect the economic value of collecting the waste as well as the risk associated with undertaking the activity; and the cost of enforcing the permit rather than simply being a fee to cover the cost of processing of an application.
The commitment in the waste policy document to introduce a requirement for all household waste collection service providers to put in place Customer Charters was a particularly important and innovative one. I’m very pleased that a number of waste collectors have already put Customer Charters in place ahead of the regulatory requirement to do so. In that context the paper asks whether there should be additional standing conditions, in addition to those listed in the Regulatory Impact Analysis, included in Customer Charters. It also asks whether operators should be required to publish their Customer Charters (for instance, on their own website) and how operators should be required to demonstrate compliance with the commitments set out in their Charters (providing, for example, publication of Ryanair or Irish Rail style performance indicators – number / percentage on-time collections etc).
An effective household waste collection system isn’t all about carrots and sticks for collectors: households have obligations to go with their rights too. The paper therefore asks whether there should be an absolute obligation for all households to avail of a waste collection service and what the sanction should be for failure to adhere to such an obligation. The possible establishment of a register of household waste customers as a permit condition whereby a local authority can request the collector to verify whether a specific householder is availing of a service being provided by that operator is also mooted and the paper asks how can householders be better supported by waste collectors and regulatory bodies to prevent waste generation and increase the rate of recycling and the segregation of waste.
Review of the Producer Responsibility Initiative
I now wish to talk about producer responsibility matters, As all of you will be aware, in June 2012 I announced a wide ranging review of the existing producer responsibility initiative model which is currently in operation in Ireland.
The overall purpose of this review is to assess the nature and level of the challenges which are currently facing the existing Producer Responsibility Agreements as well as the forthcoming challenges that are expected to arise in the management of various waste streams. I anticipate that the findings and recommendations from the review will form the basis for the development of robust producer responsibility initiatives that will enable Ireland to operate successfully in meeting our domestic and EU environmental obligations in the medium to long term.
Earlier this year, I launched reports on Corporate Governance and question of the possible introduction of a Packaging Levy and today I am pleased to announce the publication two further reports under this review; these are the reports dealing with Waste Tyres and End of Life Vehicles. Both of these reports will be published on my Departments website this afternoon and I am announcing the beginning of a period of consultation. I am very conscious that we are now entering the busiest time of the year for the motor industry so I allowing the period of consultation to extend until the end of January 2014 to allow for the fullest consideration of both reports.
At this stage, the main review is at an advanced stage and I expect that the final report will be published in the coming months. The final report will be wide ranging and include segments on packaging, farm plastics, batteries, information and awareness, enforcement, competition in the compliance schemes, and possible new areas that might be covered by Producer Responsibility agreements.
The first report which I wish to discuss today is in relation to Waste tyres. In 2007, my Department introduced the Waste Management (Tyres and Waste Tyres) Regulations 2007 and these Regulations attempted to facilitate the comparison of quantities of waste tyres arising with the amounts placed on the market and tracking the movement of waste tyres from the time they are discarded until they are either reused or processed for recycling. They also imposed obligations on persons who supply tyres to the Irish market.
In approaching the examination of the waste tyre sector in Ireland, my Department sought a structural and environmental examination of all aspects of the current system to assess whether this system is ensuring the appropriate environmental management of waste tyres.
Unfortunately, despite the existing regulatory structure and the operation of the compliance schemes in this area, the report has identified that there are still major problems within this waste stream.
Some of the conclusions of the consultant’s report are stark and point to major deficiencies in the current system which must be tackled.
The report concludes that a large percentage of waste tyres arising in our system are unaccounted for and that there is a lack of quickly accessible and accurate information on tyres, part worn tyres and waste tyres. The absence of such basic information points to fundamental flaws within the operational of the current system. Accordingly, the report recommends that the existing reporting system is replaced by a full producer responsibility scheme with producers and importers responsible for its financing.
The report informs that approximately 50% of the operators within the sector are not in compliance with the Regulations. Given this high level of non-compliance, it is recommended that the option regarding self-compliance option should be removed. While I am in favour of giving business flexibility around how they discharge their environmental obligations, I simply cannot allow continue a situation continue whereby so many of those with environmental obligations feel that they can ignore these obligations. The removal of the facility self- compliance will positively impact of the development of a single compliance schemes while also assisting with enforcement in the sector.
The report also concludes that the operation of a dual-compliance schemes system leads to difficulties in monitoring the effectiveness of the current system and it recommends that only one tyre compliance scheme is required to serve the market. The establishment of a single compliance will bring benefits in other areas especially around information and awareness activities, where the report concludes that the activities to date have not been effective. I view the development of more effective awareness raising in this sector as one of the first priorities of the new compliance scheme.
I also note from the report that it indicates that it would be beneficial, in order to prevent trade distortion, if similar arrangements to those planned here existed in Northern Ireland. I have already had discussed the issue of waste tyres at the North South Ministerial Council and my Department has co-operated with the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland on An Ireland Study on Waste Tyres.
The reviews of waste tyres undertaken by both administrations recommend that the regulatory systems for dealing with waste tyres North and South should be similar. However, we have to be careful not to underestimate the legal and regulatory issues which might be required to be resolved to achieve this position. I intend to have a further discussion on this issue at the next meeting of the North South Ministerial Council but I wish to be clear that there will be no delay to the process of bringing major structural reform to our domestic waste tyre regime.
I intend to achieve this reform by work working in a collaborative way with industry. Accordingly, it is my intention to establish a Tyres Working Group, similar to the current WEEE Batteries Monitoring Group, which would assist my Department in drafting the new Regulations which are required to underpin the regulatory structures recommended in this report.
A Tyres Working Group can also assist my Department in other important areas, such as inputting into the setting of collection targets for waste tyres, an activity which will bring a further focus to our efforts. Finally, I expect that this report will provide the catalyst that is required in order to move quickly to a far greater and deeper level of environmental compliance.
End of Life Vehicles (ELVs)
The second report which I wish to discuss today is in relation to End of Life Vehicles Waste tyres. The report on End of Life vehicles was one of the reports from the review which are being published ahead of the main PRI Review report and this reflects the importance that I attach to Ireland moving as quickly as possible to achieve the targets set out in the ELV Directive.
To date, Ireland has not been able to meet these targets in respect of the recovery and recycling of End of Life Vehicles. This non achievement of targets has been questioned by the European Commission and my first priority is, if possible, to avoid any further escalation of the current infringement proceedings which Ireland faces. We can only do this by convincing the Commission that we have a viable, specific, and time bound action plan which will allow our system to achieve both the current and the more stringent targets which come into force in 2015.
In examining the ELV waste stream, the consultants were asked to examine all aspects of the end-of-life vehicle system currently in operation and to make recommendations on how to improve the structure and environmental outputs of our end-of-life vehicle regulatory regime.
The major conclusion of the report confirms that our domestic End of Life Vehicle system is not performing well and is not working for a variety of stakeholders. There is leakage of vehicles from a number of stages in the system and major structural change is required. The consultant’s report contains a large number of recommendations and I wish to concentrate my remarks on some of the major ones.
It is recommended that a compliance scheme is established for the sector which should have a specific responsibility for achieving the national End of Life Vehicle targets.
In line with other such schemes the compliance scheme will be funded by producers but I note that report recommends that in the event of a funding shortfall the revised Regulations should make provision for a fee by the first owner purchasing the vehicle as an additional source of funding.
The establishment of a compliance scheme should reduce the administrative burden of producer responsibility and use producers funding to encourage ELV reuse, recycling and recovery rather than for administrative activities.
It is also intended that the compliance scheme could also act as a focal point for information and awareness raising activities which the report outlines require to be further enhanced and developed.
The report also recommends the implementation of the Continuous Vehicle Taxation System. This will assist in resolving the disparity between the number of End of Life vehicles arising and the number of certificates of destructions which are issued and will assist in increasing flows of ELV’s through authorised channels.
There are also a number of recommendations to improve the enforcement of the End of Life vehicles which my Department will be considering.
It is clear to me that we have a large amount of work to do in order turn around the regime regarding ELV and I want to work with industry to make the changes that are be necessary. In order to facilitate and discuss these changes, I intend to establish an ELV Working Group to assist my Department in the drafting of the new Regulations. However, given the need to achieve our EU targets and to avoid any further escalation of infringement proceedings, I am setting a deadline of 1st January 2015 by which I expect the new system and its regulatory structures to be in place. I look forward to the full co-operation of the sector in reaching this objective.
Transposition of the new WEEE Directive
Finally, I wish to close out my remarks today by giving you an update on our recent national consultation process on the implementation of the WEEE recast Directive in Ireland.
This robust process served to demonstrate how well informed and energised Irish stakeholders are in preparing for the next phase of WEEE implementation in Ireland. While the measured views of all who participated in this process are currently being given due consideration by my Department, I think it is appropriate at this point in the process to highlight those areas where a consensus has emerged and those where further work is required.
The WEEE Directive makes reference to the implementation of a minimum quality standard for the treatment of WEEE, a standard which is currently being reviewed by CENELEC and is likely later this year to become the referenced European Standard. I think the support from stakeholders for the introduction of this standard in Irish legislation says much about how Ireland’s WEEE system continues to evolve.
Irish waste management companies have invested substantially in our national WEEE collection and treatment infrastructure and it is entirely appropriate that this investment be secured. At a time when the value of WEEE is such, that there is increased evidence of leakage from authorised channels to suboptimal treatment facilities for profit, it is my intention to support the enforcement of the WEEE 2 Regulations by mandating standards for the treatment of WEEE.
Only those facilities that operate in conformity with the applicable European treatment standards or recognised equivalent will be permitted to receive WEEE under the recast Regulations. It is my view that this measure will create a level playing field for all operators by setting out the minimum criteria to which such operators must conform, encourage further investment in this area, improve the quality of treatment and curtail the illegal export of WEEE.
While I am confident that this development will serve to ensure that the higher treatment rates stipulated by the recast Directive will be met by Ireland, the even greater challenge of meeting the Directive’s ambitious collection targets remain.
In order to meet these collection targets we need to provide the most efficient, effective and accessible collection network possible to facilitate the Irish public in continuing to manage their WEEE responsibly. The key to this lies in resourcing and supporting local collection points, whether these points are operated by local authorities or by electrical retailers. The WEEE Directive is unequivocal in assigning responsibility as to where this support should come from and the Department’s commitment to the concept of producer responsibility which underpins much of our waste policy is equally unequivocal.
In the absence of an agreement between producers and retailers it would be only prudent to protect against any perceived diminution by retailers of their obligations under the Regulations. To guard against this I will consider the introduction of a range of additional enforcement measures to ensure full compliance from this sector with their regulatory responsibilities in this regard.
As I have stated previously, I am not prepared to countenance any contravention of retailer take back obligations or any action or indeed inaction on their part which results in WEEE being diverted from authorised collection channels.
I look forward to hearing the outcome of any further negotiations which may take place between producers and retailers by the deadline I have outlined. Regardless of such an outcome, I am determined to press ahead with a WEEE regulatory structure which helps to further reduce the adverse impact on the environment from the generation of this particular waste stream and charts a path towards an innovative, modern and sustainable approach to the management of WEEE.
I hope you all enjoy today’s Summit and thank you for your attention.