Seán Sherlock TD
22 February 2017

Labour Spokesperson on Energy, Seán Sherlock, has called on Minister Denis Naughten to make an immediate intervention in the waste recycling industry after reports of 160 containers were returned to Ireland from China because of contamination.

“This Government put the issue of green waste recycling on the long finger last June,” said Deputy Sherlock.

“And instead of dealing with it in 2017, it has decided to defer and defer again. All the while we have recycling apartheid throughout the country, as one section of consumers are locked into a monopoly paying high rates of waste fees to contractors outside of the agreement and the other section of consumers able to cherrypick their recycling habits.

“We have families with serious medical conditions paying over and above the market rate because they live in an area that is served by only one contractor who decided not to sign up to the waiver. Where is the equality in that?”

Deputy Sherlock called on Minister Naughten to outline exactly what his Department intends to do on the waste issue, as inaction will lead to more situations where contaminated waste is returned to the country.

“Instead of a cost to the industry of €500,000, this sector should be able to wash its own face, without the need to penalise families around the country. The lack of a clear and transparent waste policy from this Government and not a recycling of old statements, means the problem is not simply going to go away.”


Notes to Editors:

An investigation is under way after 160 containers of recyclable waste were returned to Ireland in recent months because of contamination.
Sources in the waste industry say the contamination rate is increasing and now accounts for 40% of green bin waste.

The body in charge of waste shipments – the National Trans-frontier Shipments Office, which is run by Dublin City Council as the national authority – is investigating the returned shipments.

The 160 containers were stopped in Rotterdam en route to paper mills in China between October and December last year. It is understood oxygen monitors revealed the presence of non-paper refuse.

The shipments were returned to Ireland last month at a cost to the waste industry in Ireland of around €500,000.
Industry sources in Ireland say that the cost of processing green or dry mixed recyclable waste has increased by 30% because of contamination and that some sort of penalty system will be needed to stop people putting black bin rubbish into green bins.

The recyclable waste is sent to Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in Ireland for sorting but not all contamination can be removed as it is said that customers go to the trouble of hiding waste in empty cereal boxes.

The National Trans-frontier Shipments Office has confirmed the return of the 160 containers and said that up to 285 green waste listed shipments leave Ireland each week.

It said the returned waste was incorrectly classified but that the materials could have been separated by the paper mills.

It is understood that the Department of Energy will launch a public awareness campaign in the coming weeks to encourage waste segregation.

Last year the Government cancelled plans to introduce minimum charges for green bins as part of a pay-by-weight system.
At present many waste customers do not have to pay for green bin collection.

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