The management of waste by local government, particularly the Department of Environment, has come under fire from a parliamentary committee.
Waste management has come under fire in the report
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said there was "poor leadership, time wasting and inordinate delays".
Northern Ireland was due to have recycled a quarter of rubbish by 2005, but falls short of that target.
Europe has given NI five years to catch up, but if it fails, ratepayers will have to pay fines of up to £180m.
In a report on Monday, the committee said the prospects for "hitting the next target looked bleak".
Rate payers are also going to face hugh rate increases over the next few years to pay for massive upgrades to the infrastructure.
Up to £0.5bn needs to be spent on specialist equipment, buildings and recycling centres.
Tony Clark, MP, a member of the NI Affairs Committee, said the situation in the province "is a shambles", particularly the planning process.
Mr Clark said there were examples of planning applications for new facilities not being decided after 10 years and permission for extension of landfill sites not being decided after eight and a half years.
He said this was an "absolute nonsense".
"How can we meet our EU directive in 2010 if we are saying the planning system can take these incredibly long times to come up with decisions, come up with answers. It's not acceptable," he said.