Irish Times - 16/12/05
Madam, - My preference for burning our rubbish and converting it into heat, rather than burying it in our earth, (Dec 1st) has resulted in some uninformed comments.
Marcia D'Alton (Dec 13th) tells me there are now three incinerators and not two as reported in my article, since Ringaskiddy, she says, counts as two because it will also have a municipal burner. Yes, I know that. She then writes that actually we have 10 hazardous waste incinerators, six of which are in the Cork area.
What she fails to tell us is that these are all small private incinerators attached to specific industrial plants and that they process only limited, and usually single stream, by-products.
According to the EPA, 420,841 tonnes of waste were notified, authorised and exported in 2003, of which 170,678 were hazardous. Of this, 75,000 tonnes of toxic waste had to be destroyed in European toxic burners, the rest being treated and/or buried abroad.
If these small private "in house" incinerators were able to deal with all the varied waste from their manufacturers, how come over 60 per cent of the toxic waste produced in Ireland still has to be sent abroad in trucks?
This journey involves a highly toxic cargo being driven down the roads of Ireland, on to boats, and then across to European incinerators. This process contravenes European directives demanding that waste be treated near the site of origin. I notice that those who criticise my stance never make reference to what for them should be the plight of the European citizens who live near these incinerators.
Brendan Richardson (Dec 3rd) writes that it is "absolute poppycock" to state that the by-products of the pharmaceutical and industrial plants of Ireland need to be exported abroad for treatment.
One honestly has to wonder exactly where these people get their information from. Perhaps they both believe that the EPA figures are "poppycock" too.
Marcia D'Alton is well known amongst what I call "the zero waste lobby groups" and to those who criticize me for not believing in zero waste theory I say this. Show me your zero waste, and I'll believe.
And whilst you are on, show the mothers of Ireland what they are supposed to do with their plastic nappies please.
If Marcia D'Alton chooses to quote from the Health Research Board, wouldn't it be less selective if she also referred to their opinion that not only is waste management in Ireland facing a crisis, that landfill sites contain toxic substances, and that incineration may paradoxically be seen as a net contributor to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions?
Let's get real. Affluent societies generate waste despite recycling and packaging restraints. Right now something has to be done with it, and I remain unashamedly convinced that to burn it with heat recovery is preferable than to bury it for eternity.
Criticism has its place, but we need practical and realistic solutions to our waste crisis, based upon fact and not fiction. - Yours, etc,
SUSAN PHILIPS, Glenealy, Wicklow.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment