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Irish Times - 28-11-07
Incineration 'undermines' waste policy
Alison Healy

Recent decisions on incineration have undermined sustainable waste policy, Minister for the Environment John Gormley said at the opening of the National Waste Summit in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Gormley was a vocal opponent of Dublin City Council's plan to locate a waste incinerator at Poolbeg, but last week An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission to the facility. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) then issued a draft licence to the council to operate the facility.

This will be Dublin's first municipal waste incinerator and will have a capacity of 600,000 tonnes. Mr Gormley expressed disappointment at the approval of the plant last week. Yesterday he said an incinerator with such a capacity was "not sustainable".

He said this capacity was large enough to serve the entire country. "In fact, recent figures from my department suggest that, with a developed mechanical biological treatment system, the quantity of residual waste requiring disposal other than landfill would be reduced to some 400,000 tonnes by 2016."

Mr Gormley said he believed an incinerator as large as the Poolbeg facility "was a disincentive to recycling".

"Because of the 'put and pay' clause, the local authorities will have to keep feeding it or pay a substantial financial penalty," he said.

He said many regional waste management plans were over-reliant on incineration "and there is a need to focus on the alternatives". Mr Gormley said he hoped an international review of waste management policy, commissioned by his Department, would be under way by early next year.

Last week, a steering group held its first meeting to agree terms of reference. The review will be carried out by independent consultants and will be "one of the most comprehensive pieces of research ever on waste in Ireland," Mr Gormley said. The review will look at ways of reducing waste levels, promoting alternative technologies and improving recycling rates.

Mr Gormley told waste industry representatives that it would be an "enormous challenge" to reduce, or find alternative treatment for at least 700,000 tonnes of waste by the end of 2010.

The National Waste Summit will continue today, with a debate on ways of reducing waste. Austria's success in establishing composting will be examined. Up to 80 per cent of Austrians separate their biowaste, mainly household kitchen waste, at source. Some 600 composting plants treat the biowaste of 8.7 million inhabitants.

The conference will also hear about the success of the web-based initiative run by the four local authorities in Dublin. The website allows people to give away unwanted goods for free instead of dumping them. In its first year of operation, the equivalent of 70 household skips containing more than 5,000 items were reused through the website.

Furniture is the most exchanged item, followed by household appliances and garden and outdoor items.

© 2007 The Irish Times


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