Waste management regulations and legislation
There are many different types of waste, for example, household waste, packaging waste and electronic waste. In some cases, different types of waste require different methods of disposal. The disposal of waste can have a negative impact on people and the environment. For this reason, there are EU and Irish regulations for the correct disposal of waste.
EU waste directives
The range of EU Directives dealing with waste management include the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (1996/61/EC) as well as the following:
Waste Framework Directive
The Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC on waste) sets down basic requirements for handling waste and defines what is meant by "waste". It provides that EU member states must:
- Ensure that the disposal and recovery of waste does not present a risk to water, air, soil, plants and animals
- Not allow waste disposal to constitute a public nuisance through excessive noise levels or unpleasant odours, or to degrade places of special natural interest
- Prohibit the dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste
- Establish an integrated and effective network of waste disposal plants, prepare waste management plans, ensure that those who store waste handle it properly, and ensure that waste treatment operations are licensed
- Require waste collectors to have special authorisation and to keep records
- Carry out inspections of companies involved in waste collection or disposal
- Undergo periodic inspections
The PCB/PCT Directive (Directive 96/59/EC on the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terphenyls) deals with the disposal of certain hazardous chemicals that represent a particular threat to the environment and to human health.
Sewage Sludge Directive
The Sewage Sludge Directive (Directive 86/278/EEC on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture) sets controls on the use of sewage sludge in agriculture.
The Landfill Directive (Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste) sets out detailed rules on waste landfills. It provides that the operators of existing landfill sites must have an approved conditioning plan which indicates how the requirements of the Directive are to be met within the required timeframe. These plans must help prevent the negative effects of landfill on surface water, groundwater, soil and air. The Directive also bans certain types of waste from landfill sites, for example used tyres, and requires member states to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste that they landfill to 35% of 1995 levels.
Incineration of Waste Directive
The Directive on the incineration of waste (Directive 2000/76/EC of 4 December 2000) aims to prevent or limit the negative effects of the incineration of waste. It imposes operational and technical requirements and sets emission limit values for waste incineration and co-incineration plants within the EU.
Packaging Waste Directive
The Packaging Waste Directive (Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste) sets targets for the recovery and recycling of packaging waste and requires member states to set up collection, recycling and recovery schemes for such waste.
End-of-Life Vehicles Directive
The End-of-Life Vehicles Directive (Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles) sets out measures which aim to prevent waste from motor vehicles and vehicle components that have reached the end of their life-cycle and to promote vehicle reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery. It requires that collection systems be set up to ensure that end-of-life vehicles are effectively and safely disposed of without damaging the environment. Read more about how to dispose of an end-of-life vehicle.
Electrical and Electronic Waste (WEEE)
The Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (the WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU) became effective on 14 February 2014. It aims to prevent the generation of electrical and electronic waste and to promote reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery in order to reduce the quantity of such waste to be eliminated through landfilling or incineration. It requires the collection of WEEE, recovery and reuse or recycling.
Implementation of waste directives
These Directives are implemented in Ireland by the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, the Waste Management Act 1996, the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 and the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. Several statutory instruments deal with specific aspects of EU Directives.
Up to July 2016, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government had overall responsibility for waste management policy. These functions have now been transferred to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
Waste policy and legislation are implemented largely by the Environmental Protection Agency and the local authorities. The current waste management policy is set out in A Resource Opportunity – Waste Management Policy in Ireland (pdf), which was published in 2012. Among other things, this policy document sets out the policy on eliminating landfill, reducing the amount of waste produced and maximising waste as a source of products and renewable energy.
The Waste Management Acts provide for a general duty on everyone not to hold, transport, recover or dispose of waste in a manner that causes or is likely to cause environmental pollution.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and waste
The EPA's main activities in the waste management area are:
- Drawing up and reviewing the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan
- The integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) licensing system, which deals with the generation, recovery and disposal of waste
- Development of guidelines for the selection, management, operation and ending of use of landfill sites
- Authorisation of waste imports
- Maintenance of a national waste database
The local authorities are responsible for:
- Authorisation and control of commercial waste collection activities
- Authorisation of waste exports and monitoring of internal movements of hazardous wastes
- Waste permits for small-scale recovery and disposal activities
- Ensuring adequate waste collection, recovery and disposal arrangements in their areas
- Monitoring and inspection of waste activities generally
Waste management plans
The EPA is responsible for the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan. The plan must be reviewed at least once every 5 years.
The regional waste management plans deal with non-hazardous waste and must include measures to:
- Prevent or minimise the production or harmful nature of waste
- Encourage and support the recovery of waste
- Ensure that the waste which cannot be prevented or recovered is disposed of without causing environmental pollution
- Ensure that the 'polluter pays' principle is effectively applied
The region must publish a notice of its intention to draw up or review a plan. Anyone may make a written submission within 2 months of this notice. When the proposed plan is drawn up, it must be available for inspection and you have 2 months to make submissions about it. The plans must be reviewed at least once every 5 years.
Certain facilities that deal with the generation, recovery and disposal of waste require a licence from the EPA. The procedure is the same as for the IPPC licences. The EPA keeps a public register of waste licences.
Before granting a waste licence, the EPA must be satisfied, among other things, that
- The emissions from the facility comply with the relevant standards
- The activity concerned will not cause environmental pollution
- The best available technology will be used to minimise emissions
- The applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a waste licence
The local authorities operate a permit system for certain waste disposal and recovery activities which do not require a licence from the EPA. The application must give public notice of intention to apply for such a permit. The application must be available for inspection at the local authority’s offices and anyone may make a written submission about it. A permit may be granted for up to 3 years and may have various conditions attached. The National Waste Collection Permit Office (NWCPO) maintains a register for waste facility permits and certificates of registration issued by local authorities.
Waste collection permits
The collection of waste on a commercial basis requires a waste collection permit from the NWCPO. An applicant for a waste collection permit must publish a notice of intention to apply and must give details of what is to be collected and how this is to be done. The application may be inspected on the NWCPO website and anyone may make a written submission on it in the 25 days after it is made. If you make such a submission, you must be told of the NWCPO’s decision.
Various conditions may be attached to the permit, including conditions relating to the use of skips in public places. For example, it may require that skips be lighted at night. (This may also be a requirement under bye laws issued under the Roads Act 1993. Section 72 of the Roads Act 1993 allows local authorities to make bye-laws governing the use of skips on public roads).
Producer responsibility obligations
'Producer responsibility obligation' means a requirement to take steps for the purpose of the prevention, minimisation, limitation or recovery of waste by the producer of the waste. Everyone who carries on any agricultural, commercial or industrial activity is obliged to prevent or minimise the production of waste from that activity. Under the Producer Responsibility Initiative (PRI), as an alternative to statutory controls and obligations, relevant business sectors were invited to formulate and implement proposals for a voluntary producer responsibility initiative. A review of the PRI was published in 2014.
There is a voluntary agreement between the Government and Repak Ltd to promote, co-ordinate and finance the collection and recovery of packaging waste in order to achieve the objectives set out in the Packaging Waste Directive (see above). There is an equivalent scheme in operation for farm plastics. A similar scheme operates for end-of-life vehicles.