Legal and procurement rules may prevent environment minister creating a single waste authority for Northern Ireland.
Environment minister Alex Attwood told assembly members that once local government reform is complete in the province his preference was for one waste authority.
Northern Ireland’s councils are in the process of being reorganised from 26 – with very limited powers - to 11 with powers roughly like those of an English district.
Attwood said: “Given that we will have 11 councils and that we have a population of 1·9m, a single waste authority is appropriate for the North.”
But various groupings of the existing councils have procurements in progress for waste management.
Attwood said councils in the North West Region Waste Management Group were “getting close to final bidder status”, while Arc21, which represents councils in the east of the province, was “having a pre-application discussion with the community and the Planning Service”, though waste procurement by Swamp, a group of councils in the province’s south, had collapsed.
He said: “For legal and procurement reasons we have to exhaust that exercise.
“If, on the far side of that, we end up with one — or perhaps two — waste procurement body, so be it. My view is that a single waste authority would be appropriate.”
Attwood said he had discussed joint working on waste with the Republic of Ireland and the two governments had jointly appointed consultant David Surplus to chair the North/South Market Development Steering Group.
The minister said: “He [has] indicated that he thought there was a lot of ‘low-hanging fruit’ in waste opportunities.”
- Assembly members also questioned Attwood on progress with Northern Ireland’s 5p levy on single-use carrier bags, introduced this month. He said administrative costs would be around £600,000 a year, with the rest of the money raised being devoted to environmental causes. These have yet to be chosen but Attwood said he hoped to see support for a river restoration fund, a sustainability and innovation fund, and more money allocated to the community challenge fund and Rethink Waste.