Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill: Poolbeg Incinerator

I very much welcome the Bill. The plastic bags issue has been covered extensively. I welcome the flexibility being given to the Minister to increase the charge as needs be because there has been a move back to using plastic bags. The levy has been effective in reducing usage, but we need to go a step further. A levy could also be used to deal with the problem of chewing gum which is a blight on cities throughout the country.

Deputy Brian Stanley spoke about waste reduction, an issue at which we must look seriously. The way forward is to reduce the amount of waste created. We must take into consideration the number of shops using paper bags because that is waste and adding to the problem. The issue of plastic bottles should also be tackled.

I refer to remarks made by Deputy Seán Fleming about the former Minister, Mr. John Gormley, a constituency colleague of mine, that he had engaged in parish pump politics. I do not accept that any Minister acts on that basis. I thought, therefore, that Deputy Fleming’s remarks about the former Minister, his former partner in government, were disingenuous. It seems Fianna Fáil is very good a discarding its partners. We need only look at what happened to the Progressive Democrats and the Green Party.

Incineration is not a parish pump politics issue; it is one which affects the entire country and how we deal with waste. It affects the area which Deputy Eoghan Murphy and I represent. Most politicians in that area have not looked on it as a parish pump politics issue. We have the largest sewage treatment plant, two major power stations, the largest metal recycling facility and two cement factories. It is not a case of not in my back yard. It may be a case that our back yard is full.

Incineration is at the same level as that for landfill and we must push it up in the hierarchy. The levy is too low and must be higher. The cap is not high enough. We need to consider this issue further. I am concerned there is no levy on emissions from incineration. The emissions levy must be included in the Bill.

The remark has been made that once waste is incinerated, the problem has been solved, but that is not the case. Unfortunately, we must deal with the toxic waste from incineration. We do not have a toxic waste landfill site and under the EU directive, we must deal with our own waste. We will have to move very quickly in that regard.

Neither landfill nor incineration is the way forward. They will play a role, but an incinerator with the capacity to deal with 600,000 tonnes of waste in the Dublin region is far too big. Before any decision is made, I appeal to the Minister to ensure the Hennessey report is published. Extracts from the report which have found their way into the media imply that it will cost the taxpayer up to €320 million over 25 years in terms of the “put-or-pay” contract. Will the Minister clarify last year’s media reports on whether there is a break in the contract for the incinerator on the Poolbeg Peninsula?