2009-01-30: On Wednesday last, 28th January 2009, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the ‘National Waste Report 2007’. As usual, a Press Release accompanied the launch … and the contents of this Release are still beginning to appear in our national media.
You may also have caught some interesting waste-related newspaper articles just after Christmas. It was those which really started my mental wheels turning. Congratulations to Ms. Sylvia Thompson in The Irish Times (2008-12-30) !
Between 2001 and 2007, the total amount of waste (in tonnes) produced by this country – all of us together – under each of the ‘selected’ four categories shown in Appendix A – Indicators on Page 33 of the recent EPA Report, i.e. municipal, household, commercial and packaging … has increased dramatically. Not only are we dirty, messy creatures on this beautiful island, but it is also clear that a much heavier, and more effective, regulatory hand is required to get to grips with this increasing problem. We suffer from too many national marketing campaigns and too many national voluntary schemes … which “don’t amount to a hill of beans”, as John Wayne grunted many years ago.
But, just how ‘useful’ are the numbers we were presented with on 28th January ?
– It took 13 Months to produce the National Waste Report for 2007. Having had a brief conversation with a key person in the EPA (who shall remain nameless), I know that there are all sorts of reasons why this continues to happen year after year. But, the time lag is ridiculous, and unacceptable. To be ‘useful’, we need Reliable Waste Data and Statistics far, far sooner. For example, if this Report had been ready for mid-September 2008 … National/Local Waste Policies and Budgets could have been adjusted in time for the start of 2009. Does that make sense ?
– In 2007, we did not recycle 36.5% of household and commercial waste. We recovered this percentage of waste. If, however, you were then to apply the following criterion … how much of this waste was actually processed for recycling within the island of Ireland and in a location no farther than 75 Km from the point of recovery … how quickly do you think the figure of 36.5% would nosedive into the ground ??? To be ‘useful’, we need a more developed Waste Indicator Set which will reveal the complete picture on national performance.
– With Tables 5 & 6, on Page 7, firmly in the back of your minds … how ‘sustainable’ is it to be exporting our waste to countries as distant as China, India and the USA ? This forces me to ask a strongly-linked question … does anybody within the EPA, or at the higher levels of any of our National Institutions, really understand the word ‘sustainable’ ? Looking at the Environmental Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development, alone, is a pointless exercise. In the long-term, it is actually counterproductive. To be ‘useful’, we need Waste-related Environmental Indicators which are properly integrated into a Multi-Dimensional Matrix which also contains Waste-related Social, Economic, Institutional, Political and Legal Indicators.
Put very simply … our Aim should be to use as close to ‘real time’ Performance Indicators as practicable, with Benchmarking at Year 1990 … to target ‘real’ improvements in Ireland’s Sustainability, verify Target Attainment, and to continually re-adjust those targets at appropriate intervals thereafter.
Have a nice weekend !