MINISTER KELLY, HOW CAN WE REACH ‘ZERO WASTE’ WITH THE POOLBEG INCINERATOR?
At the Environment Ireland conference, where environmental consultants meet green activists.
While I was not wearing my Birkenstocks (I don’t think I own a pair anymore), I did arrive with several questions on various environmental areas close to my heart…waste management, resource efficiency and water resource management.
Unfortunately, while there were break-out sessions on various topics, many conflicted and I was unable to attend the Irish Water discussion. However, here are my impressions, limited though they may be…
The new Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, TD, made his debut and opened the conference. While I wish he talked more to us rather than reading from his script, I did take away a few tidbits about the direction the Department may take in the near future.
In particular, he outlined his priorities in term of waste management. Though it’s a dirty business and one most of us don’t want to bother about, it’s essential to address how we are going to prevent waste creation, promote environmentally sound waste management, reduce litter and fly-tipping all without destroying our beautiful country-side.
In the shadow of the looming and controversial development of the Poolbeg incinerator, Minister Kelly spoke about moving towards a ‘zero waste’ economy. In particular, he said the government will take measures “[t]o incentivise the greater reduction of waste and to move towards the long-term goal of zero waste..”
However, how will we move towards the goal of ‘zero waste’ when Poolbeg will consume 600 million tonnes of waste each year. Quickly doing the maths, I calculate that if we can remove biodegradable waste (food and green waste and paper/cardboard), plastic, glass and metal from landfill, we can reduce the waste sent by landfill by 75% thus leaving just over 250,000 tonnes available for incineration. These are national figures, not just the figures for the Dublin region.
In 2012, we landfilled 1,027,577 tonnes of waste , of which:
- 54% was biodegradable (544,890 tonnes)
- 14% was plastic (143,860 tonnes)
- 4% was glass (41,103 tonnes)
- 3% was metal (30,827 tonnes)
These tots don’t even get into the prospect of waste reduction and resource efficiency that is an EU and Irish policy priority.
This simple calculation illustrates that building the Poolbeg incinerator directly contravenes the Minister’s and government’s goal of achieving ‘zero waste’. It also creates an over-capacity. We will be competing with Denmark, Norway and Germany for imported waste to feed this hungry beast.
Minister, if your goal is to reach zero waste, please step up to the plate to stop the construction of the Poolbeg incinerator. There is no way the government can promote resource efficiency and zero waste with a 45-year commitment to the incineration of valuable resources.