Welcome to the Finfacts Blog

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gormley Opposes Incinerators in Ireland but Supports Export of Irish Hazardous Waste for Incineration

IRISH HAZARDOUS WASTE EXPORT DESTINATIONS 2004 - - John Gormley, TD, Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government opposes waste incineration in Ireland, which may be politically popular but he has provided no clarity on how we can credibly reduce our dependence on landfill.

It is also rank hypocrisy to oppose incineration while 70% of Irish hazardous waste is exported for incineration!


The politics of opportunism generally pays more dividends than the politics of principle and Pat Rabbitte who resigned as leader of the Irish Labour Party last Thursday, is testimony to that.

In an editorial on Friday, The Irish Times said: Mr Rabbitte stood out as one of a rare breed today: he was a principled politician. Right or wrong, he lived a political life of conviction. He firmly believed that a real alternative to a Fianna Fáil-led coalition should be offered to the voters in the 2007 General Election, stood by his principles when he could have done a volte face and, in the end, accepted the decision of the people with his resignation yesterday.

John Gormley, TD, Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, who couldn't countenance another five years in Opposition, is more at home with the politics of opportunism and the Irish system of mouthing principle on issues while being happy to have solutions provided overseas, thereby avoiding difficult choices, is nothing new.

Gormley, in an address to the CoolEarth Fair at the Festival of World Cultures in Dún Laoghaire today, will speak on the themes of "Climate Change, Energy, and Nature", and address the issue of the Government's waste policy and incineration, as well as climate change.

In highlighting Government policy on waste management a press release says that the Minister will say "that incineration is no longer the cornerstone of our waste management policy. This Government has a different approach to waste management. We believe the waste hierarchy is paramount. Real emphasis has to be placed on reduction, reuse, and recycling first. Let us be clear: we do not see incineration or thermal treatment as a form of recovery, it is a form of disposal."

"This government has also set out clearly in its programme a more sustainable approach to the financing of waste projects. So-called "put or pay" clauses, which guarantee a waste stream to incinerator firms are now out of the equation, as are waste permits (waster permits can be used to direct waste to certain types of facilities) which perform a similar unsustainable function," Gormley planned to say.

"This new approach will undoubtedly have an impact on planning. In the past we have seen An Bord Pleanála overruling the recommendations of its own inspectors on the basis that incineration was government policy. This is no longer the case. Good planning and the waste hierarchy must take precedence."

The "waste hierarchy is paramount," because Gormley wants to kill off the plan to build an incinerator in his Dublin South-East constituency. His approach is to ensure that no incineration project would be viable at planning stage by preventing councils from committing to supplying a given amount of waste. Gormley's predecessor in office Dick Roche TD, supported the use of incineration but said that he would not have agreed to locating a plant in his own constituency.

Repak in a report on waste in Ireland in 2004, said that the total projected quantity of hazardous waste was 723,921 tonnes. This compares to a projected estimate of 533,592 tonnes in 2001 and represents an increase of 36%. The increase is dominated by the reported generation of contaminated soil.

Hazardous waste includes solvents, lead-acid batteries, asbestos waste and other categories and in 2004, Ireland exported 70% of its hazardous waste. Some 30% of our municipal waste is exported.

Ireland is largely reliant on landfill, which is viewed by the European Commission as a serious threat to water supply as well as in relation to the production of methane.

The European Commission decided last March to start legal action against 14 Member States for inadequately transposing the EU's legislation on the landfilling of waste into their national law. It sent first warning letters to seven Member States last December, and is now doing the same for Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The Commission's action follows a comprehensive evaluation of the degree of compliance with the landfill directive by all the pre-Jan 1, 2007 EU-25 Member States. The directive governs operation of landfill sites and is a key measure to protect human health and the environment against potential hazards from waste.

Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for Environment, said: "The Commission's checks have revealed many shortcomings in compliance with the rules on waste landfills in virtually every Member State. The result is that human health and the environment are not being protected as well as they need to be against dangers from the dumping of waste. Eight years after the landfill directive was adopted it is high time for all Member States to rectify this situation without further delay."

The EU Landfill Directive requires reductions in the amount of biodegradable municipal waste being land-filled. This effectively requires the replacement of landfill capacity with infrastructure of a different kind. Many of Ireland’s competitors have already put in place such infrastructure and will have a competitive edge in this regard until such time as the waste treatment capacity required in Ireland is delivered.

A report published in June 2006 by Forfás, the Irish Government's policy advisory agency, says that Ireland has made significant progress in the area of municipal waste management in recent years, with the share being recycled increasing from 13 percent in 2001 to 33 percent in 2004. However, Ireland performs relatively poorly with a recovery rate of 35 percent for industrial waste, highlighting Ireland’s dependence on landfill as a waste management solution. A significant amount of industrial waste is now land-filled on-site by the bigger companies rather than being land-filled in municipal landfills.

-Waste Costs: Of the countries benchmarked, Ireland has the highest waste management costs for non-hazardous landfill and biological waste treatment. Recycling costs and hazardous waste treatment costs are also higher than most competitor countries because of Ireland’s reliance on export markets for the treatment of recyclable materials. The vast majority of Ireland’s recyclable materials are exported for further treatment. Additional transport costs are directly impacting on the waste costs for the enterprise sector.

Infrastructure Deficits

Ireland’s dependence on landfill remains high relative to other countries. This is mainly due to the limited progress that has been made in delivering waste infrastructure in preferred waste treatment options such as thermal treatment and biological treatment. Ireland’s comparatively poor performance on key indicators such as costs and capacity can be traced back to the failure to deliver key waste management infrastructure in recent years. Ireland’s infrastructure deficits are also likely to affect Ireland’s ability to meet the targets set down in the EU Landfill Directive. Ireland will be restricted to landfilling 75 percent of the municipal biodegradable waste produced (by weight) in 1995 by 2010. This means Ireland must reduce its 2004 biodegradable waste levels by almost 340,000 tonnes.

It's easy for Gormley to peddle in the politics of opportunism on an August Sunday with his fatuously termed waste hierarchy.

Have the cojones to oppose incineration directly and then address the landfill and recycling issue.

In Opposition, it's cost free to promote contradictory policies. Oppose nuclear power while not opposing buying power from the UK or being against incineration while exporting most of our hazardous waste for incineration overseas.

What is being offered to the attendees at the CoolEarth Fair and the Nimbies in Dublin South-East is the standard cute hoorism of Irish politics and it doesn't even come in new packaging.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!