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Irish Times - 10-01-06
Roche calls for network of waste incinerators

Minister for the Environment Dick Roche today called for the building of a network of incinerators after a report showed all Irish landfills will be full within eight years.

According to the National Waste Report 2004, which was published today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 67 per cent of municipal waste was sent to landfill. This was a reduction of only 1 per cent on the previous year.

The report said Ireland has 34 landfill sites accepting waste and that, unless something was done to reduce the amount of waste being sent there, they would all be full within eight years, although it noted there is "considerable variation between regions".

The EPA also warned that a significant number of households do not use a domestic waste collection service, leading to almost 227,000 tonnes of the 1.5 million tonnes of domestic waste produced each year being unaccounted for.

The EPA called for local authorities to take the lead in determining what is happening to this waste to prevent "fly tipping and backyard burning".

Mr Roche said he was concerned that the vast majority of domestic waste is ending up in landfill sites. He said incineration was the only way to avoid adding to our growing rubbish mountain.

"The biggest tough decision that we have to make now is going to be on incineration," he told RTÉ Radio this morning. "You don't need an incinerator in every county, that's the first point. But we will need incinerators and we will have to have a number of incinerators."

Labour Party environment spokesman Eamon Gilmore attacked Mr Roche, claiming his emphasis on "old-style methods" like incineration is "misplaced and is out of tune with public opinion".

Mr Gilmore said there was an urgent need for an integrated system with the emphasis placed on reducing, reusing and recycling. He accused Mr Roche of being naive if he believed that all the unaccounted-for waste was being delivered to official landfills.

"The reality is that much of it is probably being illegal burned or scattered throughout the countryside," he said.

Green Party environment spokesman Ciaran Cuffe said the solution to the growing waste problem was for the Government to encourage the public to produce less waste and offer the public alternatives to burning or burying.

"The fact remains that we are producing the most waste of any country in Europe, we are producing the most packaging waste of any country in Europe," the Dún Laoghaire TD said.

Shipping our excess waste abroad was no answer, he insisted. "I don't think we should pat ourselves on the back if all we are doing is putting it into containers and sending it off on a slow boat to China."

The EPA report showed Ireland has already almost achieved its 2013 target to recycle 35 per cent of municipal waste. A total of 32.6 per cent of all such rubbish is currently being reused.

The report also noted nearly three-quarters of material recycled was sent abroad to be processed in Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Holland and China.

It called for the establishment of an indigenous recycling industry to deal mainly with glass, metals, paper and cardboard.

© 2006


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