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Smaller waste dealers fear compulsory site bonds in Northern Ireland

Proposals for a waste site bond system from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) could put smaller operators out of business, dealers have claimed.

The NIEA has issued a consultation on introducing compulsory financial provisions for waste site owners to cover the potential cost of remediating environmental damage or the clean-up of a site if the owner goes out of business or lacks the funds to do so.

The consultation will be open until 19 June and proposals would amend the Environmental Protection Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.

Philip Howe of the Northern Ireland Recycling Trade Association said that the NIEA had not given any indication of the size of a bond or how it will be calculated.

The association’s members have rejected the proposals arguing it would be a significant financial burden that would negatively impact smaller operators.

“They will not commit to what the costs are going to be for the sites and by the time we know the cost it will be too late to do anything about it because it will be written into law,” he said. “We’ve asked them for what their formula is going to be and they say they do not have one.”

Howe said the proposal is partially designed to target unscrupulous operators who charge gate fees to take material and then abandon or set fire to the site once they had accumulated enough money.

He said that many of these operators are not officially licensed which would mean operators of illegal yards would not pay into the bond system anyway.

George Gallagher, who owns a metal scrapyard in County Fermanagh, said that his 25-year-old operation would have to shut down if fees were too high.

He said if he had to pay £50,000 or more to cover the bond it would drive him out of business. But that if the figure was set too low, it would not cover the cost of a clean-up operation and would therefore make the proposals redundant.

“We do not know how much it is going to cost us, but we will not be able to afford to pay the bond if our predictions are correct,” he said.

Gallagher speculated that larger operators would pay group bonds rather than for individual sites which would work out less expensive per site.

He said larger operators would be able to cope with the financial burden and could pick up additional trade if smaller business shut down.

MRW is currently awaiting a response from the NIEA.

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