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Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011

4th April 2011 - Senator Anthony Lawlor

I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Hogan, on his new role and wish him well in his work. I will speak to a number of issues related to the Bill. The legislation which introduced a levy on plastic bags was very successful when one considers that the use of bags decreased from 328 to 21 per head of population. However, even though the levy has increased from 15 cent to 22 cent, there has been a 50% increase in the use of plastic bags. I urge the Minister to reconsider his position with regard to the levy because it is a major fundraiser for the environmental fund and it supports the principle that the polluter should pay.

I ask the Minister to investigate the amount of wrapping used on products. In the past, we used to scoop a pound of sugar from a box and take it home in a paper bag. I recall buying sweets in paper bags from my local sweetshop. Nowadays, sweets are wrapped individually.

I am pleased that the levies on landfill have been increased. I live beside two landfills, Arthurstown, which has taken waste from Dublin for the past decade, and Kerdiffstown, which has been in the news recently. I hope the increased levy will divert waste away from landfills. If waste is put into landfill, it becomes a legacy for the children of future generations but incineration and thermal treatment deals with it in the present. A thermal treatment plant in the centre of Vienna has become a tourist attraction. The waste coming out of incinerators is now being well treated and has no impact on the environment.

I urge the Minister to investigate how the environmental fund is being spent. The money generated by these levies is invested in the fund. The most recent records I could find date from 2008, when approximately €12 million was allocated to one of the worst quangos in this country, the EPA. Some €10 million of that money was spent on research and development and €2 million was used for environmental enforcement. The phrase “environmental enforcement” is a bit of a joke in my constituency given that the EPA was the licensing authority for the landfill site at Kerdiffstown. The remediation of that legacy is going to cost the Exchequer between €60 million and €80 million. When I made a complaint about the site, the EPA took 18 months to respond. It asked me my reasons for making the complaint but given that I found it difficult to remember what I ate for breakfast that morning, how could I remember what happened 18 months ago? The Minister should review the operations of the EPA, either in the context of this Bill or under alternative legislation.

Problems arose when the landfill at Arthurstown was initially opened but the EPA must have used a bigger whip on South Dublin County Council because it is now being operated properly. The one problem I have with it is that the gas produced from the waste is laden with dioxins because it is not properly cleaned.

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