Irish Examiner - 23-07-07
No burning - make polluters pay
PETER LEVY (The County, July 3) is wrong to suggest “incineration could be the best solution and that protest groups may not have thought through their objections”.
He questions how green it can be to allow waste to be burnt on-site in factory incinerators, but not in commercial incinerators.
What does the ‘polluter pays’ policy mean to Mr Levy? Protesters are concerned about commercial tolling incinerators.
Two issues must be pointed out. Incineration produces ash as a by-product which must rely on landfill, so incineration does not cut down on landfill.
Secondly, if the commercial incineration industry ignores its duty of care to public health and to the environment, the residue of waste left after the ash will be dispersed as ‘sky-fill’ through burning. Air emissions from waste incinerators have been positively identified as a cause of cancer and other health damage in humans.
However, Mr Levy is correct in stating that “ash disposal and the air polluting emissions from plant combustion operations can pose problems”.
He is supported by our own Health Research Board in that communities living in the vicinity of municipal solid waste incinerators are at risk of respiratory disease.
Also, the fourth report of the British Society for Ecological Medicine (2005) concludes that no new waste incinerators should be built.
The society stated: “Incinerators are in reality particulate generators, and their use cannot be justified now that it is clear how toxic and carcinogenic fine particulates are”.
Active citizens have the moral obligation to look after their own family health and certainly cannot rely on anyone else to do it for them, hence the protest groups against incineration.
The responsible management of industrial waste should be based on the concept that the polluter pays, not the taxpayer.
Our recycling rates show what a deterrent pay-by-weight can be in that it forces people to be responsible with their waste.
The fact that Cork County Council is failing to compete with private operators is not the public’s fault, but perhaps the council’s case wasn’t helped by its refusal initially to enter into the spirit of recycling by not having recycling bins when the public needed them. We still have no brown bins.
Commercial incineration is not economically viable. It presupposes a constant stream of waste over a 20-to-30 year period to make the plant worthwhile.
It certainly shows a lack of vision to underestimate the value and success of source waste separation and to assume that both the volumes of unsorted household and industrial waste will continue to rise, particularly when prevention of waste gets priority.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment