28 Jun

Is Waste Metering coming soon?


We give a very qualified welcome to yesterday’s WASTE CHARGES Announcement by Minister Naughton of the  Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (see text in the annex below). It starts the ball rolling on waste reduction initiatives but does not go far enough to ensure recycling, waste avoidance and consumer incentives are accelerated.

600,000 customers in the Dublin will see an impact in the coming months and this will be in the form of higher pricing, unfortunately, as waste collectors avail of the new rules to increase profits. The rest of Ireland will follow suit as waste collectors avail of  this opportunity to raise prices to cover their own rising costs.

 We review the news under three aspects, the good points, the bad and the ugly consequences.


  1. This announcement gives WASTE OPERATORS four months to roll out brown bins (Food Waste) to thousands of people around the country. Something that was supposed to be done a year ago but is only coming along in a sporadic way. Many areas have no Brown bin service at present. Naughten agrees with us that far too much food and organic waste is ending up in the regular black bins.
    So to ramp up recycling, all waste collectors will be required to start rolling-out food and organic brown bins to all localities nationwide with a population greater than 500 people ( Currently it is 1,500, but not implemented widely yet)
  2. Under the new scheme, waste collectors have the flexibility to offer pricing options to their customers which the government hopes will incentivise recycling.
    These options include the choice of standing charges, per-lift, per-kilo, weight-bands, as well as weight allowance charges. Some of these schemes are already in place, mainly outside Dublin. In a normal market, this will allow the most efficient and cost effective operators to provide the best services for consumers, but this is Ireland and it doesn’t always end up as such.
  3. Flat fee charges are to be scrapped. This mitigated against a reduction in volumes as no incentive existed for greener-minded consumers. Instead, a pay by weight/volume in effect will be put into operation.
  4. They do not plan to build any new Landfills, but will focus on reducing the volumes of waste in all aspects.
  5. He wants to shift direction to a Zero Waste destination. Welcome on board Minister

To combat the inevitable price rises the Minister asks us to ‘shop around’. Hmmm’.


  1. Price rises are unlimited – no upper price fixed. They will allow the private market to set their own pricing. There may be monopoly pricing or collusion. Think ‘Insurance Industry’ here to imagine how it might unravel.
  2. No waiver scheme has yet been produced in any detailed way.
  3. No Waste regulator is outlined- in particular, a pricing regulator for waste management activities (landfill, incinerator gate fees, bin charges etc). The EPA is purely engaged in Environmental policy and enforcement.
  4. The pay-by-weight scheme, which was due to come into place from 1 January, was delayed last December 2016 amid public outrage on price gouging by collectors. While this announcement says pay-by-weight in not coming, in the actual impact it is. Operators will charge by supplements and penalties for weights/volumes over fixed levels. This is current practice in certain areas, where amounts over 30kg are billed at 30c per kilo. We would prefer is there was not base level to allow very low usage to benefit from the reduced costs.
  5. Apartment blocks
    Naughten said work is underway to tackle the waste that is generated by people living in apartment blocks but this should have been done in advance of this announcement and highlights the lack of progress on implementation issues to date.
  6. The Minister said a new awareness campaign will also be rolled-out to educate people how to segregate their recycling. Remember the ‘Race Against Waste’  and ‘Stop Food Waste‘ campaigns. They were underfunded and limited. Do not repeat this without an adequate budget to educate and win hearts and minds. This takes time, effort and money and needs the NGO sector to be an integral part. (The plan to enlist volunteer  ‘Waste Ambassadors’ by the Regional Waste Authorities is not a dependable campaign). Involving NGOs, who have dedicated and dependable supporters would seem a better option as it will give it continuity when the payments cease to the commercial partners subcontracted for the PR campaign.
  7.  The biggest problem facing Waste Collectors at present is contamination (30% of recycling materials volume is contaminated). (Food waste mixed with recyclables, wet cardboard etc). This contamination diverts material that could be recycled to landfill so is easily avoided if we educate our population to prepare the recyclables properly.
  8. To combat the inevitable price rises the Minister asks us to ‘shop around’. With 67 waste operators in Ireland, he said households should compare prices and what’s on offer. But in many places, there is simply no choice. The Minister needs a rethink here on how to create a competitive market on a national level.
  9. No new actions are outlined for Glass , Plastic and disposable containers like coffee cups. There is urgent action needed to address these issues similar to the Plastic Bag levy that could have an immediate impact e.g. Refundable Bottle returns, Disposable Coffee Cup tax and a major Pet plastic recycling initiative to name but three. Alas, the imagination of the Government is blinded by Incinerator smoke when we need a clear vision.


  1. “We are going to provide flexibility for operators to ensure that if people segregate more or produce less waste, they will pay less,” said the minister. We would be cautious of this as it could lead to an outbreak of illegal dumping as economic stress on consumers could force them into fly-tippling (especially of the heavier weight items). It’s already happening.
  2. FoodWasteHierarch

    Food Waste is a timebomb waiting to explode. This is the heaviest fraction by weight and when collected generally will impose a big cost on consumers.

There needs to be a focus on education, consumer behaviour and food preparation to reduce the waste in the first instance. This is not a simple task as it involves food growers, distributors, retailers and consumers before anything lands in the brown bin.  We also need to encourage  Food Waste Recycling, redistribution and treatment in a full Circular Economy approach. Past experience in Ireland has shown that we plan well and create lots of reports but fail miserably on implementation. Failure in this National Food Waste project will result in a very ugly (and smelly) environment if all the pieces do not dovetail.

The entire privatisation of waste management was & still remains a complete mess. It needs to be changed to Local area franchises, one company per area for limited periods, at tendered pricing to Councils or Waste Management regions and managed by a price regulator. It might get ugly putting this in place with vested interests not willing to cede ground but the consumer will be the ultimate winner.

The changes will generate consumer anger and resentment. We think the Minister underestimates the feelings on this issue just as the same inertia applied to water charges.

Our Analysis.

Firstly, we must understand that these ‘new measures’,  are just a remarketed version of the same old existing regulations that were postponed.  They will come with increased costs for the end consumer. It will generate anger and resentment. We think the Minister underestimates feeling on this issue just as the same inertia applied to water charges. Water metering was rejected but will Waste Metering suffer the same fate? Will we see Wheelie Bins on the streets, and not the pavements,  in October?

pay-by-weight typical bin weights in EU


Not in reality. The pay by weight previously proposed a scheme, such as it was,  is NOT being scrapped. It’s just been built into pricing by weight with thresholds, through PR spinning. There will be no Minimum or maximum pricing and no flat rate.

So…what to expect next
(a) expect bin bills to further rise. It’s a commercial business and collectors need to make a profit. There will be no price war, just rising prices from all collectors.

(b) Also expect fly tipping to increase, as those who cannot afford the costs resort to illegal dumping and transfer the cleanup costs to the local authority.

(c) Maybe those Wheelie bins may move from pavement to street in a protest rally when and if the price rises are significant and widespread in October.

This Minister had the opportunity to find an equitable solution and take new initiatives to really ensure waste is eliminated at the source but he wasted that opportunity.  We will all pay the price of such failure, the consequences might smell to high heaven.

————————— Annex – Press Release text ———————————–

Press release by Minister Naughton. 27/6/17

Press Release: Minister Denis Naughten announces Household Waste Collection Charging Arrangements

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, T.D., today (27 June 2017) confirmed that a more flexible framework for waste collection charges has been approved by Government.

The Minister stated “Allowing for a range of charging options, which most consumers are already familiar with, will encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste while choosing the service-price offering that best suits their circumstances and allows them manage their costs. Therefore, I have decided not to impose a compulsory ‘one size fits all’ per-kilogramme charging system on waste collectors.”

The amount of waste sent to landfill has increased in the last two years. In 2016, there was insufficient capacity to dispose of residual waste and emergency powers were invoked by the regulatory authorities to make additional landfill capacity available. It is important to act now to encourage waste reduction to avert a return to an over-dependence on landfill. An incentivised pricing structure for household waste collection is an important measure in this regard.Under the new arrangement, waste collectors will be given the flexibility to continue to offer, or to introduce, a range of incentivised pricing options to their customers. These options include elements or combinations of standing charges, and per-lift, per-kilogramme.

Under the new arrangement, waste collectors will be given the flexibility to continue to offer, or to introduce, a range of incentivised pricing options to their customers. These options include elements or combinations of standing charges, and per-lift, per-kilogramme, weight-bands, and weight allowance charges.

A “one size fits all” mandatory, nationwide per-kilogramme charging system will not be implemented.

However, ‘all-in flat rate’ charging for household waste will start to be phased out as customers renew or enter new service contracts.

All waste collectors will be required to start rolling-out food/organic “brown” bins to all localities nationwide with a population greater than 500 people. This will help more households divert waste away from their standard black bins. Further consideration will be given to extending ‘brown’ bin coverage in phases to smaller localities.An annual support of €75 will be introduced for persons with lifelong/long-term medical incontinence. This support will help people meet the average annual cost of disposal of incontinence products. The details and arrangements of this support will be finalised later this year, after further consultation with the stakeholder groups.

An annual support of €75 will be introduced for persons with lifelong/long-term medical incontinence. This support will help people meet the average annual cost of disposal of incontinence products. The details and arrangements of this support will be finalised later this year, after further consultation with the stakeholder groups.

In support of the new arrangements, the three Regional Waste Management Planning Offices will implement an information and awareness campaign in the third quarter of the year.


12 Apr

Environ Conference Token reference to Circular Economy


Minister Denis Naughten TD,  addressed the attendees at Environ 2017, AIT Athlone, today April 10th 2017. The Circular Economy was not high on his list of priorities.

In his rambling speech he offered just a single reference to the Circular Economy.  We re-publish his words below ….

Circular economy section of his speech.

”Responding to Climate Change is only one element of this government’s commitment to the concept of a sustainable economy. As I’ve already mentioned, managing our resources in a way that protects and preserves our environment is essential, and it can also save costs for businesses and consumers.The concept of a Circular Economy is now globally recognised.  It proposes the possibility to live well and prosper if we move away from the traditional model of ‘take-make-dispose’ and instead embrace waste as a resource; a resource to be reused, re-made and re-imagined.

By reusing items and materials, we can support local training and jobs in repair, refurbishment and retail.  We reduce the costs of waste collection and disposal and we reduce the need to import more costly fuels and materials.

But currently, we discard 4 out of every 5 items that we produce after one use and we recycle only 1 g out of every 100 of the valuable rare earth metals that we use in products.

That is why I am focusing on a number of practical actions related to resource efficiency and the Circular Economy.

For example, I am addressing the scourge of illegal dumping which I see as environmental and economic treason.  I recently announced an anti-dumping initiative to provide financial support to community groups and to equip local authority officers with the tools required to effectively pursue and charge those responsible for illegally dumping including the use of drone technology.  I am pleased to say that already the scheme has been oversubscribed so I intend to increase the funding available for this initiative.

I have also made the problem of food waste a priority for my Department. By tackling food waste we can address food poverty, sustainable consumption of food and reduce landfill.  We have set about tackling food waste from three strategic positions – production, retail and at home.
I set up the Retail Action Group chaired by retail expert Eamonn Quinn which brings together the main supermarkets in an effort to come up with new solutions from the retail perspective and an awareness campaign is underway targeting householders.”

While his aspirations are very laudable and the Government’s belated conversion to Circular Economy (CE) and Zero Waste thinking is very welcome, there is a paucity of ambition, real action and concrete projects on the ground to change our consumption patterns. This Government has not yet fully implemented and enforced the EU Landfill Directive and imposed separate Food Waste collection on a national scale. They are pulling back from imposing real cost recovery charges on Food Waste collection due to popular anger against increased collection charges.

His intervention to date and what is planned is merely superficial window dressing. Policing illegal dumping should be a norm everywhere, not a special initiative. We expect normal enforcement to de done as routine. If the government, EPA, Co Council staff  etc were doing their jobs they would not need community volunteers involved.

Having a bunch of retail consultants and entrepreneurs discuss food retail changes in isolation is missing the point of a connected circular economy. It addressed the tail end of the pipe (distribution and sale), similar to the old school linear model of consumption.

The depth of changes needed here should reflect the Food Waste hierarchy. Actions at higher levels make the biggest difference and this applies to all Waste issues.


More fundamental and holistic action is needed to address the designer/developer/creator, producer, distributor and consumer mindset that has delivered such a wasteful environment from ‘field to fork’ and back and it extends way beyond food waste.

Zero Waste Alliance Ireland (ZWAI) is actively engaged with Food Waste elimination projects and collaborates with Equipment suppliers to offer Aerobic Food Waste Digestion solutions.  The biggest issue is at the higher level- consumption patterns and education of both consumer and supplier to avoid waste in the first instance.

Real concerns

One of the principal matters of serious concern for Zero Waste Alliance Ireland (ZWAI) over a period of many years is the acceptance of the high amount of discarded materials and objects, which may be currently regarded as wastes, but which are potentially recyclable but not recycled here. These are exported from Ireland to other countries for processing or disposal. As a consequence, these materials are lost resources to Ireland, and the jobs which would be created by reprocessing and remanufacturing are also lost to us. More critically new repair skills, CE design thinking and re-manufacturing process skills that would create new technological solutions have not been developed here. This puts us at a disadvantage to other, more Circular economies, where these new age skills are now being developed.

Canada shows how.

Take the example of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. As far back as  1989 they had decided to embark on a policy of diverting 50% of waste from landfill year-on-year, thereby avoiding the need to construct of more landfills. The Canadian policy on waste management emphasised that resource conservation, materials efficiency, waste prevention, and the re-use and recycling of materials are all integral components of a sustainable economy. Target Zero Canada1 had suggested at that time that making material and energy efficiency a tenet of the Canadian economy was an essential precondition both for achieving zero waste and for ensuring long-term economic and environmental health. Unfortunately, these benefits were not generally recognised in conventional accounting mechanisms and measures of progress, with the result that these mechanisms and measures were sending contrary messages.

In Ireland, the very similar measures of progress which we use have also failed to show the value to society of re-use, repair and recycling. But while other countries have made considerable progress towards “Zero Waste” or the development of what is now known as “The Circular Economy”, Ireland has lagged behind and has achieved apparently high “recycling rates” only by exporting large volumes of potentially recyclable materials to other countries.

It’s now time for real action in Ireland, on a scale much greater and much deeper than the Minister timidly suggests.

So what’s next?

Let’s see some real investment in consumer education and behavioural changes by an education, taxation and incentive approach (carrot and stick) that surpasses the limited Plastic Bag campaign.

Let’s start with a ban on single-use disposable containers by imposing a punitive tax on them (e.g. fast food containers, paper coffee cups that are not 100% entirely re-useable)  and lowering Vat on re-useable products such as re-useable bottles.

There are many other areas the Government can act top accelerate our adoption of a Zero Waste lifestyle but space is limited here to discuss further. Think about the following however as a parting thought.

Cheap/low cost things to do :
1. Hold Competitions: Target designers for  new process techniques, novel re-use applications (young scientist type events) to unleash the creative talent we have.
2. Run funded Education campaigns – consumers/ schools  (schools competitions also for projects)
3. Finance Public awareness campaigns (social media, low-cost publicity channels) e.g. wage a media war on disposables
4. Ask the EPA to seek more research tenders and calls for novel solutions to re-work, repair, re-design and re-use solutions.
Medium cost :
1. Pass legislative actions to favour repair, re-work through incentives, vat rate reduction, refunds etc.
2. Accelerate a Green Public procurement policy to include reworked, recycled, repaired items (with min % quantities bought) to create a market for the greener goods on sale.
3. Empower Recycling, re-use schemes through local /national financial incentives to operators e.g. bottle re-use (grant aid operators of plants that wash/re-use, re-distribute). Incentivise producers of liquids to use glass rather than less recyclable/re-useable materials.
Higher cost:
1. Offer free or subsidised Infrastructure for CE companies (warehouses, plants, sites, grants).e.g. re-use, sharing sites, non-profits, community groups for CE activities.
2. Change C&D waste treatment by favouring deconstruction programmes (training, support to firms  engaged in deconstruction sector)
3. Offer incentives to consumers (subsidies to favour re-useable products, trade-ins, support retailers to offer used stock in their retail outlets e.g. no rates on space used for recycled sales items so that every retailer can become a new /used shop rather than just a Second-Hand store). This also applies to houses built from recycled materials.
Let’s get serious about taking real and well-funded actions to embrace the Circular Economy. Time is not on our side. We need more ambitious politicians. let’s hope they step up to the challenge.

1 On 21 November 2000, Target Zero Canada, a network of Earth Day Canada, launched the program “Zero Waste Solutions.” The program promoted “zero waste” environmental policies and innovative systems based on best-practice models already established by governments, businesses and organizations worldwide.

To book a Food Waste Audit or enquire about our Accelerated Aerobic Digesters, that deliver compost within 24 hours from Food Waste, contact us at info@zerowasteireland.com. Take action now, no more waiting.

30 Mar

Taking Food Waste Off the Menu

We, as consumers,  in the Industrialised world have a big problem. We’re Wasters, big food wasters !

Food Waste comparison across the world

Food Waste comparison across the world

We waste much more food than our less industrialised cousins in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  We are suffering obesity growth while one in nine people are chronically undernourished in poor, less developed countries.

In Europe and North America, consumers waste almost a third of food produced. (good distribution, poor consumption behavour).  In Africa and Latin America most food is lost  before it even gets to the consumer (poor distribution but efficient consumption).

To confront this worrying food waste trend,  in Sept. 2015, the United Nations set a target of halving per capita food waste for retailers and consumers alike. They also declared war on food waste that happens along the path from plant to plate. The European Union supported this by publishing new guidelines to make food donation easier  without weakening food safety regulations. They also now measure food waste statistics more consistently across the 28 EU Member States. It’s part of the suite of action points in the EU’s initiative on the  circular economy The idea is simple:  make it easier for consumers and businesses to get maximum value and use from raw materials by encouraging the re-use of by-products at their highest functional level.

Of all the food produced in the world for human consumption approx 30% is lost or wasted. It never reaches the consumer! That’s approx 1.3 billion tonnes per year of food waste – with almost half lost in industrialised countries.

How can this be?

Unlike in African countries or poorly developed economies where distribution systems may not be optimal,  most of the food wastage in developed countries is at the retail or household end of the food chain (the final leg of the food path to your plate).

Who’s to blame?  

Well, consumers are often blamed for poor purchasing decisions, bad food planning or simply managing household resources and budgets badly.

There are a whole series of factors that can lead to people wasting food.

  • Discipline is key for Consumers. Planning meals better and smarter shopping must become the norm for all. This means sticking to shopping lists and being vigilant about supermarket tactics (offers,  layouts, bulk bundling to avoid falling into retail ‘traps’).
  • Portion control is also essential. Maybe even use smaller plates to rightsize your calorie intake.
  • Lack of Re-use , food sharing of surpluses and recycling of leftover servings
Zero Food Waste to landfill

ZeroFood Waste- Landfill courtesy celestine-ngulube, via unsplash

So what can you do now ?

For brevity let’s just focus on one simple change you can make to your food consumption behavour – better meal planning.

Meal planning is one of the most effective ways you can save on your food bills. Start off by checking your fridge, freezer and store cupboard right now.  Ask yourself what you really need as you work out a meal plan for the week, and make sure you have everything you need and just the right amount. Then, before you go shopping, think carefully about what else you’re going to need for the week and write a list with quantities noted. That way you won’t shop for things you already have or buy too much. be especially careful to consume vegetables and perishable fruit as soon as possible after purchase.

Once a month clear out your fridge or freezer with the oldest dated food and perishables nearing their end of freshness date and plan a ‘Clearout menu’ for that day.   Why not write a menu for your ‘Clearout day’, with the words  ‘ Food Waste ‘ at the bottom.

Bon appetit !

– Zero Waste Alliance Ireland provides a Waste Audit and Consultancy service to Commercial sector and offers  state of  the art Aerobic Food Waste Digesters  (from 200kg to 5 tonne capacities)  through our preferred equipment partners.  Talk to us about becoming a Zero Food Waste organization.

27 Jan

2017 – the Year of Zero Food Waste

Zero Food Waste to landfill

2017 will be the Zero FOOD Waste YEAR –

Zero Food Waste to landfill

ZeroFood Waste- Landfill courtesy celestine-ngulube, via unsplash

The year we finally get our FOOD WASTE TO ZERO.

Zero Waste Alliance are launching a big weapon in the war on Food Waste – a commercial Zero Food waste digester for Food catering and retailing establishments. We will follow later in the year with a Domestic unit suitable for Households. This is a timely intervention as price hikes for food waste collections will kick in and our landfills refuse to accept food waste (a long overdue implementation of EU directives in Ireland).

With Food Management techniques, aerobic on-site food waste digestion to energy, anaerobic digestion facilities or  regular composters used,  no more Food Waste needs to go to landfill. Battle over ! Whooppee.

Check out a Food Waste Digester in action here.

But remember that you can fight food waste by clever planning and avoiding waste in the first instance. No food waste means no big waste collection charges. Makes sense right. So pay attention and follow these simple steps to cut your food losses and your bills  to zero.

How to Reach Zero Food Waste In Your Home


Don’t buy what you don’t need in the first place. Don’t buy quantities beyond your capacity to use before it goes stale. Special offers are tempting but you often buy more than you can consume in a short period and unless it is non-perishable, you can freeze it or store it safely it ends up in the waste bin.  Make a shopping list, with quantities needed and stick to this list. Do not be diverted or tempted to add to it.

Once you’ve brought food home don’t let it rot there, unloved and uneaten before it’s use by date. How many times have you had to throw away that last apple or banana or the rest of that bagged salad mix because it ripened or degraded before your family could eat it? It went from shelf to bin and through your wallet. Just think of the money you wasted to buy food just to allow it to spoil and dump in the compost bin or garbage bin.

Here’s 3 ways to get a better outcome and make your home a zero food waster’s paradise.

1.       Eat What You Buy – and only buy what you need for the short term.

It’s all about quantities. Work out just how many apples your family will eat in a week? How many meals will you plan next week using potatoes? That huge bag of tomatoes may be on sale, but can all those ripe tomatoes really be eaten before they go bad? What is your Tomato consumption rate in a week? Just buy that amount because any more is a false economy unless you freeze them.  So buy only what your family can reasonably eat while it’s still fresh. What might have appeared to be a bargain basement price for a big quantity might end up in a basement garbage bin, leaving you with disposal costs. In your quest to reach the Zero Food Waste  zone you must imagine that garbage bin being tiny.

2.       Use Your Leftovers – or Freeze them.

Cook the amounts you will need for that meal only. But sometimes you need to cook for a few meals to save time later in the busy week. e.g. a roast, a large curry. Cooking in bulk makes sense if you plan well and know when it will be consumed.  That’s fine but remember to freeze and seal  stored future meals so they are fresh when defrosted. Food can be forgotten in that frozen cabinet so label them well with use by dates. With smaller amounts of leftovers store them in glass or see through plastic jars so you can plainly see the food. That way you either enjoy those leftovers for lunch the next day or turn them into a brand new meal and reduce waste at the same time. Call it your Zero Food Waste menu.

3.       Portion controls anyone?

Very often we leave a large amount on our plates because our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. This happens a lot at buffet style meals. Rather serve smaller portions and repeat courses with extra helpings when the first ones are eaten. This applies especially to kids. This way uneaten food is still in the serving pot, uncontaminated by sauces and gravy etc. You can re-use next day or freeze for future use. Result –
less scrapings of mixed food waste. We’re getting close to Zero Food Waste now. Which leads us logically to the next situation.

Too late. It’s gone off ? What If It Goes Bad? – It can happen that you buy fresh produce and then it ripens quicker than you thought it would, or the kids leave a lot on their plate. Don’t throw it away. Scrape it into a compost bin or a Zero Food Waste  digester if you have one. With a digester you get rich compost in about 24 hours, or about 6 months for an outside compost heap.

Bringing it all Home – The one time to not avoid waste.

There is one case where avoidance is what we do not want to do. This is when we should bring it home. If you enjoy a restaurant meal but are unable to finish the food served – a very common occurrence – ask for a doggy bag. Otherwise it goes into the restaurant food waste pile and gets wasted.  The restaurant owner will thank you for reducing his pay-by- weigh food waste bin collection charge and you have a nice snack or lunch next day.

Bon appetit !

  • 08 Jan

    Waking up from our coffee cup nightmare

    latte levy, coffee cup tax

    Photo courtesy of Takahiro Sakamoto on Unsplash

    The UK starts to wake up from a coffee cup nightmare, but we’re still snoring here.

    Ring ring…..alarm bell ringing….wake up. Don’t press the snooze button. Just get up and smell the coffee.
    Isn’t it great to see that the UK’s Environmental Audit Committee, the EAC, have released a report recommending that a 25p levy is added to hot drinks served in disposable/throwaway cups – dubbed the coffee cup tax or latte levy.
    We’re delighted that the UK has, at last, woken up and started to confront the disposable cup nightmare that is growing by the day. We have the same problem in Ireland but as yet we only see procrastination at Government level, as they claim to be ‘evaluating’ options. Sounds more like like snoring?

    There is simply no way this horrendous and completely avoidable problem can be put back in its box. Just watch any Sky Ocean Rescue TV programme to see the disaster that is ocean plastic pollution. The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee has, like any environmentally literate person, wisely seen the reality and recognised that the burgeoning mountain of disposable coffee cups is effectively un-recylable.
    Like the situation in Ireland, it is overwhelming the UK’s waste treatment systems, polluting rivers and seas, and must be stopped. The situation cannot be allowed to continue. It’s completely at odds with the EU’s Circular Economy direction. The time has come for us all to make a stand. We need to tell the coffee shop businesses, their cup suppliers and customers to stop making and using badly designed products and expecting the us, taxpayer, to pay for their clean up.
    You see, they pay only a fraction towards the infrastructure costs of the little recycling that actually goes on at present. And we will need a lot of expensive infrastructure to handle the volume of waste cups – 2.5 billion coffee cups being used yearly in the UK alone. The make up of the cups, being either wax or plastic and paper means it is difficult to separate the paper and only specialist equipment can do it properly. There are currently only three recycling facilities in the UK that can split the paper from the plastic for recycling, and none in Ireland. That’s why less than 1% of cups are recycled.
    So what happens to all the used cups? They mainly go to create fuel for Incinerators or become part of the RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) mix and get burned or end up on landfill. After a few moments of use for drinking they endure decades or longer in landfills.

    Disposable Coffee cups are used for a matter of moments, but will pollute our planet for centuries to come.

    Will the extra charges work?

    That’s debatable. Let’s look back at the plastic bag tax, pioneered in Ireland and now widely copied around the world, most recently in Kenya  with the toughest ban to date. Plastic bag usage was drastically reduced within months. The tax started low and has steadily increased in Ireland, with the revenue raised being promised to support environmental projects. (This now seems to be under question in Ireland as transparency in the use of the funds is being eroded). However the success of the plastic bag tax generally saw an 85% or more reduction in the amount of single-use plastic bags being sold. Kenya expects to see 100% reduction due to the complete ban and the stiff penalties.
    While it may work for plastic bags, it is less likely to have such an impact for coffee drinkers. It’s like raising the tax on cigarettes. It does not have a significant impact as smokers or coffee drinkers will absorb the extra cost.. Coffee prices vary from place to place so it may not be readily apparent to the consumer, who may not then take a moment to reflect and change his/her ways..

    But is it just?

    Why should the coffee drinker have to pay for failures of others to design suitable containers (e.g the disposable coffee cup) that can be recycled easily? We think the customer should NOT pick up this tab. It should be absorbed by the coffee shop or supplier. This will incentivise them to find better solutions, like offering re-usable cups. After all they consume the coffee and rent the container while doing so. They should therefore only pay for the coffee and let the supplier deal with the mechanics of the delivery method. This will encourage suppliers to find the best long term solution, and it will not be better disposables. We are entering the circular economy era and the old linear approach of take, make and forsake no longer works.

    What we’d prefer to see is

    1. Producer pays principle. Make suppliers pay for producing mixed material packaging that is difficult to recycle (e.g. tetra paks and disposable coffee cups are such products). The producers of this waste must take financial responsibility, not the taxpayer or customer.
    2.  Clear labelling– customers must know that cups are ‘not widely recycled’ and shouldn’t be fooled by misleading indicators or green washing.
    3. Full costs recovered. The suppliers of these un-recyclable cups should pay the full cost of the infrastructure needed to recycle them and not have it subsidized by the state. The taxpayer, after all, is also the consumer here and pays twice under the levy proposals.
    4. 100% by 2020. All coffee & beverage cups being used should be 100% recycled, and if they can’t be – they should be banned from the market place.
    5.  Reward good behavour. Immediately implement standard discounts across all coffee shops for customers who bring a re-usable cup like the current Conscious Cup campaign that operates internationally.

    But in the end, finding that right solution will be a matter for law and regulation, not just mere financial incentives.
    As the UK’s EAC report states: “The voluntary approach is not working”. So any new legislation needs to set a date after which the continued production of unrecyclable coffee cups and other such containers is banned by law (Just like in Kenya today).

    We must stop the production of all non-recyclable plastic products. Period!

    Our government needs to take note of this report’s recommendations and help us to end the flow of plastic entering our landfills, oceans and food chain.

    So,what can I do now?

    You can take action now by joining the #consciouscup campaign and getting yourself a reusable coffee cup so you can say goodbye to the disposable cup era once and for all.
    Oh, share the care by inviting your friends for a conscious cup of coffee and get them to do the same.

  • 04 Dec

    Platin Cement Burner- Skyfill is a bad idea.


    Nov 2017 Submission to ABP Platin 

    PLATIN: We’re concerned that this project will stop us recycling

    Phosphorus and Nitrogen are needed to grow food , not burn as Fuel for Cement kilns.

    Zero Waste Alliance Ireland (ZWAI) are very concerned at the use of recyclable materials as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). We know that this is a dangerous manner of turning Landfill materials into Skyfill pollution. Cement kilns are not designed to manage in an environmentally safe manner the pollutants that arise from the burning of a mix of recyclable and landfill bound materials. We have objected to An Bord Pleanala when such BAD IDEAS are proposed, most recently in Limerick and Duleek.

    We made an additional Oral Submission to the Inspector of
    An Board Pleanála  on the 22nd November 2017 in regard to  the  Platin Cement Proposal. It is a 10 year permission to facilitate further replacement of fossil fuel with alternative fuels  (RDF) and allow for introduction of alternative raw materials in the manufacturing of cement at Platin Works Platin, Duleek, Co Meath

    ZWAI are an advocacy group promoting ways to recycle & recover materials and keep resources away from waste disposal so that they can be sustainably recycled. We are  particularly concerned about materials that are finite or are limited in their natural availability. So naturally, we question the wisdom of burning materials at the Platin Cement Kiln that in particular contain phosphorus and nitrogen.

    You can read our Oral Hearing submission here.

    Valuable Nutrients are lost.

    The waste categories listed by Irish Cement  below are proposed to be incinerated in the cement kiln. Initially almost all of these originally required the use of Natural Gas or Coal to make the ammonia fraction of fertilizer for their growth. By burning in a cement kiln, Phosphorus will be wasted and will not be recovered. This is an essential element that is necessary for fertilizer to produce food.

    Categories of waste that are proposed to be burned at Platin cement factory


    02 01 02


    animal-tissue waste

    19 08 05

    sludges from treatment of urban waste water

    02 01 03

    plant-tissue waste

    02 01 06

    animal faeces, urine and manure (including spoiled straw), effluent, collected separately and treated off-site

    19 12 06

    sludges from on-site effluent treatment other than those mentioned in 19 11 05

    02 03 05

    sludges from on-site effluent treatment

    19 08 05

    sludges from treatment of urban waste water

    19 08 12

    sludges from biological treatment of industrial waste water other than those mentioned in 19 08 11

    19 08 14

    sludges from other treatment of industrial waste water other than those mentioned in 19 08 13

    Zero Waste Alliance Ireland(ZWAI) demands that Sewage Sludge or any of the other similar categories listed by “Irish Cement” that contain Nitrogen and Phosphorus should not be burned in the cement kiln for the following reasons:

    1. The Fossil Fuels (Natural Gas and Coal) that are used to make ammonia gas for fertilizer are finite and will eventually be depleted. We must reduce significantly the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the making of ammonia fertilizer. Any finite material must instead be recycled.
    2. The Burning of Nitrogen (Ammonia) and its loss to the atmosphere results in this resource being no longer available to farmers as part of the fertilizer to grow food.
    3. The emission of NOx will cause ozone in sunlight conditions. At ground levels ozone will cause ambient air pollution and should therefore be avoided.
    4. The energy of the Nitrogen (Ammonia) recovered in the Cement Kiln will not replace or be equal to the total energy required for its original manufacture, its processing as an NPK fertilizer, its transport around the world or the energy for its application on farms.
    5. Because the nitrogen is not being recycled locally to grow food it forces the continuation of this very wasteful energy intensive Harber & Bosch method that is depleting the remaining finite resources of natural gas. This failure to recycle nitrogenous waste as a fertilizer is not sustainable.
    6. The Green House gases that are generated by the manufacturing of Ammonia using the Haber & Bosch process contribute to climate change and must be reduced and eventually avoided.
    7. Phosphorus fertilizer is likely to become expensive in Europe, India and other parts of the world over the coming 20 to 40 years as the resources of the USA and China, two of the three remaining countries with phosphorus rock begin to protect their own national supplies. When “peak phosphorus” is upon us and world demand is greater than the supply then no nation will have cheap phosphorus to sell to Ireland. Unless we recycle nutrients of nitrogen and phosphorus, food prices in supermarkets that are based on fossil fuel and mined phosphorus fertilizer will become volatile, then more expensive, then affordable and eventually will not be for sale at all.
    8. Phosphorus is a finite resource that can be replaced by no other element. If burned in cement kilns this strategically important resource will be lost and wasted forever.
      We must therefore recycle Nitrogen and Phosphorus. We must avoid the possibility of a world population collapse.

    We ask  An Board Pleanála to prioritize the long term public interest and put this above the private short term interests of a private business. It is not in the public interest that we should ignore the need for future food security.

  • 01 Dec

    Green Bin Rules – are we unpaid recycling workers?

    green bin rules

    Are we working as unpaid staff for the recycling companies?

    It might seem like that when you read the revised green bin collection guidelines given by the Co Councils for household waste recycling. We must sort, separate, loosen, wash, clean and dry our materials before they go in the green bin. That’s hard work and we still have to pay them to have it taken away.

    It was a surprise to listeners of Cork’s 96FM Radio station this week when we discussed the apparent ‘new green bin rules’ outlined by the Councils through the Regional Waste Management Authorities. These rules were always in place since 2014 but never policed until the rejection of recycled waste shipments by the Chinese in the past few months put waste shippers under pressure to improve their quality controls. This has resulted in a call going back to consumers here to provide ‘cleaner’ recycled materials. Rejected materials cost the waste shippers dearly and will result in higher prices here to consumers ultimately as they have to re-work the materials before re-exporting. (we don’t really do a lot of recycling in Ireland in actual fact. Our apparent ‘good recycling rates’ are just collection  and export for recycling abroad. We really need to do more real recycling and remanufacturing in Ireland and create the green jobs here. But that’s another blog topic.

    More  info: PJ Coogan on Cork’s 96FM Opinion line discusses the issues with waste quality rules now being enforced on households.

    Why should the items be clean and dry?

    If your container contained food or liquid, then some residues will remain. These will contaminate the recycling process so they must be rinsed clean to remove the matter before going into your recycle bin (green bin). Food and liquid can contaminate the materials in the recycling bin especially the paper recycling process. Wet paper cannot be recycled.

    Why is there a new list?

    It’s not a new list. It will vary from area to area depending on recycling facilities available. Recycled materials such as paper and cardboard, metals and plastic are sold on the global market, by the recyclers but the prices and demand for these materials constantly change. To get the best value for our materials, they need to be cleaned and sorted. China and India are major buyers of recyclable material from Europe and they use these materials for manufacturing instead of extracting raw materials. As stated above, over the past year, China and India have enforced higher standards on received stocks.  Mixed materials such as plastics, paper or cardboard baled together or contaminated items (or those containing unrecyclable elements)  are being rejected.  To sell our bulk recyclable materials we need to be able to separate these materials quickly and easily at the recycler depots and ensure they are contaminant free.  

    The cycle starts with the householder. So there are 2 things to do.

    1. Sort and clean the recyclable items from the non-recyclable ones.
    2. Only put into the green bin those items allowed. Put them in dry, clean and loose.

    What about paper food containers. What is recyclable?
    Any paper food container that has been soiled with food or become damp is not recyclable and should be put in the residual bin or composted. For example, pizza boxes and other fast food or takeaway containers.  (The contamination will impact the paper recycling & re-pulping process negatively so we must avoid them).

    Tip. Remember you can always just tear away or cut out soiled areas of these boxes and recycle the undamaged parts. This is worth the effort if only a small area has become contaminated. 

    • Paperboard food containers such as cereal boxes, paper egg cartons, and cake mix boxes that are unsoiled are recyclable. Just remove the plastic lining and shake out extra food crumbs.
    • Empty frozen food boxes should be placed in the recycling bin  (green bin) along with Milk and juice cartons, once washed.

    What About Glass?

    Glass does not go in the household recycling bin. Collect all bottles and place in glass bottle banks. You may have a separate glass bin collection in some areas but if not take the bottles to your local community bring centre. Glass can be recycled repeatedly.
    Beware that not all glassware can be put in glass banks such as cookware, Pyrex, plates, cups and ceramics. And don’t forget to remove the metal or plastic lids of glass items before recycling them  These lids are generally PP plastic or metal so are recyclable in the green bin.

    The recyclable list.




    Junk Mail
    Phone Books
    Tissue Boxes
    Sugar Bags
    Computer Paper
    Used Beverage And Juice Cartons
    Milk Cartons
    Egg Boxes
    Paper Brochures
    School Copy Books
    Old School Books (If They Cannot Be Donated Or Reused)
    Paper Potato Bags


    Food Boxes
    Packaging Boxes
    Cereal Boxes
    Kitchen Towel Tubes
    Toilet Roll Tubes

    Please remove any plastic inserts from cardboard boxes before placing into bin


    Drinks Cans
    *Empty Deodorant Cans (Plastic Lid Separate)


    Pet Food Cans
    Food Cans
    Biscuit Tins
    Soup Tins


    Mineral Bottles
    Water Bottles
    Mouth Wash Bottles
    Salad Dressing Bottles


     Milk Bottles
    Juice Bottles
    Cosmetic Bottles
    Shampoo Bottles
    Household Cleaning Bottles
    Laundry Detergent Bottles
    Window Cleaning Bottles
    Bath Room Bottles
    Containers Should Be Empty When Being Placed Into Recycling Bin


    Yoghurt Containers
    Margarine Tubs
    Rigid Food Packaging
    Liquid Soap Containers
    Fruit Containers (With Netting Removed)

    See www.repak.ie for a full list.

    What’s NOT allowed in the green bin.

    Put wrappers in the residual bin – they’re not recyclable

    It’s especially important to know what to leave out. These items shouldn’t be in your recycling bin:

    • Contaminated Packaging (greasy, dirty or with residue). like we said above. (Cut out contaminated areas if you can)
    • Non recyclable plastic wrappings, like sweet wrappers, Tayto bags, plastic shopping bags. These plastics are not recyclable or can damage the recycling processes used for other  recyclable plastics.
    • Nappies and Sanitary Products, medicines, medical waste (including baby wipes) – put in the residual waste bin
    • Food Waste (raw or cooked) – put in your food waste bin (if there is a collection)  or compost the cooked food in your composter.
    • Grass, Garden Cuttings / Soil – put in your composter.
    • Polystyrene (EPS) – there may be separate collection or bring to your civic amenity centre.
    • Liquids/ Oils  – bring to your civic amenity centre.
    • Textiles – including clothes/shoes and home furnishings – bring to your civic amenity centre.
    • Dismantled Furniture – bring to your civic amenity centre
    • Light Bulbs, Batteries &Electrical and Electronic Equipment (remove the plugs and re-use them)
    • Other General waste that should be in the General waste Bin. e.g. building rubble

    So there you have the list and you know what to do. So do you still think you’re working for the recyclers, for free? Let us know your thoughts on our FB page .

  • 22 Nov

    EU Waste Directive – Ambition needed


    To the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment

    Re: Final steps for more ambitious EU waste legislation – your help is needed

    Dear Minister Naughton,

    The 2018 Climate Change Performance Index highlights Ireland as being the worst performing country in Europe for action on climate change. (https://www.climate-change-performance-index.org/). The Index is produced annually on the basis of joint analysis by two leading European think-tanks. It places Ireland 49th out of 56 countries, a drop of 28 places from last year.

    The expert report lays bare the continuing and disturbing contradiction between the Irish Government’s rhetoric on climate change and the stark reality of very poor progress made here. However, we can redeem ourselves and play catch up. Here is one way to do so if we are serious about our deteriorating Environmental conditions.

    At the moment final stage of the negotiations within the European Council’s Working Party on the Environment regarding amendments to the EU Waste Directive is fast approaching.

    We in the Zero Waste movement are calling on all environmentally conscious politicians to urgently support ambitious measures in three key areas:

    1. more ambitious recycling targets;
    2. urgent action on tackling marine litter; and
    3. immediate action to curb food waste.

    We actively support the ambitions of better resource and waste management in Ireland and the EU and the move towards a truly Circular Economy. However, we are concerned about the obstructing position of the Council, undermining the negotiations of the Waste Directives as well as job creation and environmental progress in the EU.

    As the fifth trilogue negotiation approaches, we call on you and the government to support the following three key measures in the Council’s mandate for the Trilogue of 27th November 2017:

    Higher targets for preparation for reuse and recycling, and mandatory separate collection:

    In order to gain the maximum benefits of resource savings and job creation, it is essential to support a target of 70% of municipal solid waste to be prepared for reuse and recycled by 2030. Countless European countries and municipalities have shown this is possible to achieve.

    In addition, a key legislative step to reach this target is to remove loopholes around compulsory separate collection and pricing anomalies such as flat rate fees which we see in Ireland

    Tackling marine litter: Include a European Union wide marine litter reduction target of

    • 30% by 2025 and
    • 50% by 2030

    for the ten most common types of litter found on beaches (mainly plastics), as well as for fishing gear found at sea, with the list adapted to each of the four marine regions in the EU.

    Curbing food wastage: Include a European Union wide food waste reduction target of

    • 30% by 2025 and
    • 50% by 2030, from farm to fork.

    In parallel, introduce a review clause calling on the European Commission to propose a binding target by 2020 once baseline data and a clear methodology are available, and support the introduction of a standardized food waste hierarchy.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information and discussion. Thanks for giving this your consideration,

    Best regards,

    Sean Cronin,


    Zero Waste Alliance Ireland

06 Dec

Pay by weight Bin charges revamp long fingered

Government dithering dumps uncertainty on consumers

pay-by-weight typical bin weights in EU

pay-by-weight typical bin weights in EU

The minority government is showing the Irish consumer two fingers today.  Their inability to grasp the nettle and agree a sustainable pricing model for pay by weight bin collection charges tells the consumer that their concerns on price gouging will not be dealt with.  Is this Government afraid of confronting the Waste Collection Industry?

It happened for the Guards and Teachers so we are naturally suspicious.

So what are the Pay by Weight Household Waste Charging Arrangements?
You will recall that pay by weight pricing kicked in last July  2016 and the price hikes met with widespread price shock and uproar from consumers. Facing open hostility Minister Simon Coveney caved in and postponed until 2017 these price hikes,offering a price freeze in the interim. Now after very little progress towards an equitable pay by weight pricing system being agreed they have admitted defeat. They intended to gradually phase in the new pricing by showing people in an introductory period what the new pricing would look like, while paying the existing flat rate bills.

But today the  current Minister, Denis Naughton TD,confirmed that the 1st of Jan 2017, the planned  date for the mandatory introduction of ‘dual pricing’ with and an “opt-in” to pay-per-kilo charges is being deferred.

Why ? He admits now that it does not make sense to require the waste collectors, to dual price against, or to offer opt-ins for the old mandatory per-kilo pricing  proposal, because the new rates are not yet agreed.
The new pricing base is the subject of review with industry representatives and regulatory authorities . They have not yet found a more flexible framework of pay-by-weight pricing structures for householders, which will incentivise people to reduce and separate their waste and will enable the collectors to provide more options to help households manage their waste costs, and hopefully see reductions.

10559966_373009836237784_470383718428895881_nWait and Waste not.
While the work on the review is continuing,  the existing agreement with industry representatives remains in place.  This means that customers will continue to pay, no more for the same level of charges than they were paying for waste collection before July 2016.  Sounds a bit like the water rebate debacle? No movement and no innovation.
This Government u-turn on ‘Pay by Weight’ is bad for consumers and bad for the environment. It means no incentive is offered to consumers to reduce their waste .

Flat rate waste charges is like free water without metering.No one bothers to cut back on waste.

  • As we promote our Green island food image, it makes Ireland  look very tardy and sloppy to our European partners. The new deferral of ‘Pay by weight’ charges further delays our implementation of the EU Landfill Directive which sought to reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill. This  is now a decade overdue.
  • This stifles our innovation and retards progress in food digestion, anaerobic digestion, composting activities, which under the current regime are not economically attractive.

We know from experience elsewhere that  ‘pay by weight’ reduces the volume of household waste going to landfill and incineration. It saves consumers money, stimulates innovation in food digestion, composting and encourages recycling.

Now is the time to use the intervening few months of this ‘review’ to kick start a national awareness campaign on the benefits of pay by weight. It must  bring the public on board with the move, and ensure that waste companies do not engage in unreasonable price hikes.

It wasn’t done for Water charging so will lessons have been learned?  The Jury’s out on this.



28 Mar

Eurostats expose slow progress to cut Municipal Waste

The latest EU Municipal Waste generation stats have been released by EuroStat. Ireland does not impress. In Ireland, we are still producing more Municipal waste per head of population than we were before the Celtic tiger boom.

We are  well above the EU average of 481 kg/capita throwing away on average 586 kg/capita of Municipal Waste with just 6% being composted and 34% being recycled. These fall far short of our aspirations.

So how are we doing in comparison to our EU neighbours?

Well, not too bad but could be better.  The lowest  municipal waste generated per person is in Romania  (<300 kg/capita) and the highest in Denmark. Ireland comes in the upper half but the amount of municipal waste generated varies significantly across the EU Member States.
Denmark (747 kg per person) had the highest amount of municipal waste generated in 2013, and Ireland is grouped in the next highest tier with Austria, Malta, France, the Netherlands and Greece with values between 500 and 600 kg per person.

Recycling activity?

The European picture is also varied here with Germany being a star performer. Almost two-thirds of municipal waste is  recycled or composted in Germany. The treatment methods differ substantially between the Member States, with  a third or more of municipal waste being recycled in Slovenia (55%), Germany (47%), Belgium and Ireland both  have 34%  and Sweden  has a 33% rate.

Composting was most common in Austria (35%), followed by the Netherlands (26%), Belgium (21%) and Luxembourg (20%). Ireland has a long way to reach these rates with just 6% being composted. 

Incineration hot spots.

Half or more of the municipal waste treated in 2013 was incinerated in Estonia (64%), Denmark (54%) and Sweden (50%), while the highest shares of municipal waste landfilled were recorded in Romania (97%), Malta (88%), Croatia (85%), Latvia (83%) and Greece (81%).

Who are the best recyclers?

EU Municipal Waste Stats

EU Municipal Waste stats 2013

Recycling and composting accounted in 2013 for nearly two-thirds (65%) of waste treatment in Germany and for more than half in Slovenia (61%), Austria (59%) and Belgium (55%).


These figures confirm a worrying trend emerging. We note that recycling continues to struggle to make progress. Composting and recycling barely grew from 2012 to 2013.

And in that same period landfilling has dropped 2% but this waste has not appeared under recycling gains. It has obviously gone to increase the tonnage  transferred to incineration.  Moving landfill waste to incineration is simply another disposal method and does not achieve any Zero Waste outcomes. So we must be very clear that recycling , reworking, re-use activities must benefit from landfill avoidance measures. Incinerating the landfill bound waste is no real gain overall as it creates an even bigger landfill disposal issue.

Room to improve.

There is a huge opportunity for improvement especially in the recycling, composting and food waste treatment areas so let’s take it seriously and enforce the EU directives.  For example, we still have areas in Ireland where there is no separated foodwaste collection service even through it is no longer legal to co-mingle food with landfill bound waste.

It’s time to get serious about improving our performance.