Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Session 2004-2005

28 February 2005



The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today published a report into the implementation of the waste management strategy in Northern Ireland.

The Rt. Hon. Michael Mates MP, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"Some years ago Northern Ireland was the first part of the United Kingdom 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.

"The absence of strong leadership by Northern Ireland Departments has been a crucial factor in this disappointing result , marked, for example, by its  failure 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. "

Mr Tony Clarke MP, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Sub-committee which was  tasked with the inquiry, paid tribute to the efforts of those working to develop and implement a strategic approach to waste management, but warned that 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. He said:

"Three major challenges must be tackled immediately. First, a crisis in planning has led to inordinate delays in reaching decisions on applications for waste management facilities.  We were shocked to learn that these can sometimes take up to ten years. Second, this has led to  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. Third, no clear estimate of how much funding will be required to deal with waste over the life of the strategy exists;  and there is no clear funding plan for how new infrastructure will be delivered.

"We call for urgent and robust action from Government to address these extremely serious problems. But we recognise that Government action alone cannot ensure a sustainable environment. A strong Government  response must be matched by timely and effective action by all stakeholders. "