Proposals by the European Union to strengthen their internal rules on pollutants could hit the public purse in Northern Ireland and change the way some waste streams are dealt with in the region, according to new analysis by the Commons European scrutiny committee.
If introduced, the EU plans will see some construction waste in NI diverted from landfill to incinerators in Great Britain and collections for ash from domestic wood and coal burning potentially separated – which could cost more than £1m annually.
Dealing with household ash would also incur an additional estimated one-off cost of £5.4m.
The EU plans target Persistent Organic Pollutants – substances that remain intact in the environment over long periods and are harmful to the environment, wildlife and human health. A recent study, for example, identified high levels of some of these substances in otters in England and Wales
The plans will make current controls in the EU and Northern Ireland more stringent than in Great Britain and add to the list of restricted chemicals in waste.
Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland must follow the European regulations on chemical waste.
Persistent Organic Pollutants are particularly dangerous because they increase in concentration as they travel up the food chain and with the passage of time. Fortunately, many are no longer used in new products but still appear in waste.
Chemical regulations are part of a raft of retained EU laws – laws transposed into UK law to avoid a post-Brexit legal cliff-edge – which are treated differently in courts to UK-made laws.
Retained EU law, what it is and whether it is fit for purpose, is also currently the subject of an inquiry by the European Scrutiny committee.
Politics.co.uk, 15 February 2022