Plans for 8 Incinerators in Ireland a Vast Overcapacity According to Environment Minister
Irish Examiner - 11-10-07 - Greens:
No need for eight incinerators
ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley presented estimates to his Government colleagues this week that seriously questioned the plan to build eight waste incinerators nationwide on grounds of “vast overcapacity”.
At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mr Gormley got approval for an international review of the country’s waste policies, a key demand of the Greens in the Programme for Government.
The review is expected to be sent out to tender in 2008 and will take 12 months to complete.
As part of his submission, Mr Gormley included estimates produced by experts in his own department. These were based on higher recycling rates and the use of technologies that were not developed when the national waste plan was devised.
The figures show that the residual waste requiring thermal treatment will be closer to 400,000 tonnes than 2 million tonnes.
In that case there will be vast overcapacity and subsequently a need for just one or two medium-sized incinerators.
The basis for the projections is the introduction of mechanical biological treatment (MBT). This technology combines mechanical sorting and biological treatment of municipal waste. In addition, the current national waste plan projects a recycling rate of 35% of municipal waste by 2013. However, that target was reached last year and a more realistic target, suggested the minister, was 50%.
The estimates for 2012 project that there will be 3.3m tonnes of municipal waste each year. If 50% is recycled, about 1.7m tonnes will remain.
The MBT process will treat all but 400,000 tonnes of this, which can be easily dealt with by as few as two medium-sized thermal plants.
The practicalities of the alternative plan may take some time to sort out, however. Even with fast-track planning, it is arguable whether or not all could be in place by 2012.
Crucially, while Green ministers have been given great sway in the first few months of Government, the Irish Examiner understands that Fianna Fáil ministers believe some level of incineration will be required as an alternative to landfill.
That stance may lead to some clashes at Cabinet level when a policy is being drawn up in 2009.
Politically the Greens will face a formidable
challenge in relation to the residue of 400,000 tonnes. The most convenient
means of treating this may be by incineration. Greens may have no
choice but to accept this.
GREEN Party leader John Gormley was yesterday accused of another political U-turn and of imposing incinerators on the people of Cork and Meath rather than in his own constituency of Dublin South East.
As the Irish Examiner revealed yesterday, Environment Minister Gormley unveiled figures to the Cabinet this week that showed that Ireland will need only two incinerators rather than the eight that are currently planned.
However, the opposition seized on the tacit acceptance by the Green minister that incineration would be a reality in Ireland.
And if there was a need for only two incinerators, it could mean that there would be no need for the huge incinerator planned for Poolbeg in Mr Gormley’s own constituency of Dublin south east.
Two other incinerators, in Ringaskiddy, the harbour area of Co Cork and for Carranstown on the Meath-Louth border are more advanced in the planning stage.
But the minister’s argument that the figures show that incineration is no longer a cornerstone of Government waste policy fell on deaf ears with the opposition yesterday.
They pointed out that the Greens had moved from a position of total opposition to incineration to one in which it was accepting that incineration will happen.
They also accused the minister of adopting a not-in-my-own-backyard attitude.
The Labour Party’s environment spokesperson Joanna Tuffy said it constituted “another remarkable u-turn on the part of the Green Party”.
She said it demonstrated that the party had capitulated on issues that it itself had described as a core value prior to the election.
“The Green Party manifesto said that the party will continue to oppose the incineration of municipal waste.
“By suggesting there should only be two incinerators, Mr Gormley is hoping to avoid having Poolbeg proceed. This will give little comfort to worried residents in Cork and Meath,” she charged.
Martin Ferris of Sinn Féin said the Green Party minister should reject incineration and revert to his party’s previous policy of reduce, reuse and recycle towards zero waste.
“Mr Gormley should be condemned for advocating incineration in Ireland. His position today on incineration is in stark contrast to the position he took when sitting on the opposition benches in the last Dáil,” said Mr Ferris.
But Mr Gormley’s Green colleague Dan Boyle yesterday welcomed the Cabinet’s agreement that incineration can no longer be considered a first option for waste management in Ireland.
“There is no need for a necklace of eight or more incinerators to be put in place, according to figures prepared for Environment Minister John Gormley. And this is a very welcome development,” said Senator Boyle.
But he too accepted that incineration may become a reality.
“In the new analysis there is still no
identified treatment method for up to 400,000 tonnes of waste annually.
Minister Gormley has recognised thermal treatment — or incineration
— as a possible method for dealing with this waste, but only
as a last resort,” he said.
Proposals for four major incinerators were in the planning process, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told the Dáil during sharp exchanges.
He was replying to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who said that, until recently, the Government's policy on the disposal of waste was to incinerate it and, having examined and analysed the capacity of incinerators, eight were to be located throughout the regions. However, Minister for the Environment John Gormley seemed to have changed that policy.
"The situation is quite confusing. Deputy Gormley states there is only capacity for two incinerators in the country. Will the Taoiseach tell us about Government policy in this regard; is it proposed to have two or eight incinerators?"
Mr Ahern said Mr Gormley took the view that we should look at the modern technologies and the new systems being used in the Nordic countries, and, if we did that, we would not need the number of incinerators that had been previously listed.
"There are four major applications for incinerators in the planning process. Based on his examination of new technologies, perhaps we will not need eight incinerators.
"Four was the number mentioned in a number of reports. In two applications, the capacity of the incinerator for which planning permission is being sought is higher than what was originally planned."
Padraic McCormack (FG, Galway West) remarked: "he does not want it in his garden."
Mr Ahern said, in the Minister's view, some of the proposals previously examined did not take account of the most modern technology. If we went with the most modern technology, we would not need the number of incinerators that had been envisaged.
Mr Kenny insisted that the Taoiseach's reply did not answer the question he had asked. "The question is whether we will have eight incinerators or two incinerators. I remind the Taoiseach that the Minister stated on Thursday, October 11th: 'Ireland requires no more than two incinerators to deal with waste which cannot be recycled or processed, rather than the eight that are currently planned'."
Dublin City Council, Mr Kenny said, had been working for quite a long time on a major incinerator in Poolbeg.
"Obviously, the city council and local authorities must take account of Government policy. Was the Minister just spoofing when he stated the country needs no more than two incinerators instead of eight? Does that mean there will be no incinerator in Dublin city? I have put some straight questions to the Taoiseach, and I hope he will clarify the situation in his reply."
Mr Ahern replied: "it does not mean that. As the deputy knows, there are contractual commitments and a considerable amount of work has been completed on the Poolbeg incinerator. However, that does not remove the need to look at modern technology for that incinerator.
"That is the point the Minister has made. We have seen where in at least one case, and possibly two, the capacity of the proposed incinerators has been increased. The number of incinerators required depends on the capacity of each." Mr Kenny insisted that this was "a load of rubbish".
Mr Ahern said taking account of the most modern technology was the point the Minister made.
Asked by Bernard Durkan (FG, Kildare North) if this meant opting for landfill, Mr Ahern replied: "we want to move away from landfill. We should take account of the most modern technology available and as we have not started to build the incinerators, why should we use technology that is six or seven years out of date?"
© 2007 The Irish Times
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