Landfill is the controlled deposit of waste to land and although it is the least preferred option in the waste hierarchy, it is an important part of the overall integrated waste management system being developed in Ireland.
Landfill remains the predominant waste management practice in Ireland. An estimated 6,438,085 tonnes of municipal waste was consigned to landfill in Ireland in 2004. In 2004, there were 34 authorised landfills operating in Ireland compared with 126 in 1998. This is indicative of the Government policy of reducing landfill numbers to a smaller network of state of the art facilities.
Each landfill is licensed to accept only certain types of waste. The types of waste that can be disposed of vary, from those that can accept only inert wastes such as bricks and concrete to those that can accept a wide range of wastes including household, commercial and industrial waste. Ireland does not at present have any landfills that take hazardous waste.
Overall, national policy aims to dramatically reduce our reliance on landfill, and challenging targets have been set for recycling and for the diversion of biodegradable waste away from landfill. The changing waste management practices arising from efforts to meet these targets will result in less waste being disposed to landfill, without at least some form of pre-treatment. Despite this, there will always be some material that cannot be recycled or managed in any other way and for which landfill represents the most environmental and cost effective means of disposal.
The determination to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and to encourage recovery, recycling and reduction led to the introduction of the landfill levy in June 2002.
The levy has been introduced to ensure that the price of landfill waste disposal more closely reflects its environmental impact. The current levy is €15 per tonne but there are provisions which will allow this to be increased in the future.