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Doubts cast over Irish pro-recycling strategy

Northern Ireland – A number of Northern Ireland companies interested in bidding for new long-term waste contracts claim they could save rate-payers up to Euro 24 million every year.

Reputedly, the 25-year contracts are being set up with recent EU recycling targets in mind. However, a dozen waste companies – none of which is involved in this particular process – have informed the industry they could do the same work for much less. If their claims were proved to be accurate, it would save councils Euro 600 million over the full term of the contracts.

Independent operators claim they can handle the waste in question for only Euro 114 a tonne instead of the usual Euro 150. Among these companies is Recyco, run by Michael Cunningham who says: ‘If I’d talked to you 25 years ago and told you that councils would be recycling 40% of their material at the minute, you’d have thought I was mad. That highlights one of the dangers of the strategy the councils are pursuing at the minute: they’re going to commit to guaranteed tonnages and who knows what they’ll be producing in five years’ time, never mind 25 years.’

Until this point, the majority of black bin waste has ended up in landfill, with Northern Ireland’s 26 councils dumping 660 000 tonnes of it each year. But strict EU targets and penalties have prompted local councils to organise three ‘purchasing groups’ to negotiate contracts with major waste players in a bid to minimise landfilling. The negotiations are at an advanced stage and will mean councils signing up to send guaranteed amounts to new treatment facilities.

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