Dutch to import and destroy refuse from Naples

 

A CONSORTIUM of Dutch waste disposal companies has reached outline agreement with the Italian city of Naples to remove and destroy 250,000 tonnes of refuse a year – potentially ending a waste crisis which has beset the city since 2008.

The refuse will be imported into the Netherlands and burned at the country’s 12 waste-to-energy incinerators which are currently operating at less than full capacity because the Netherlands – despite being the most densely populated country in Europe – does not generate enough waste.

Because of that shortage, the Netherlands already imports domestic and industrial waste from the UK, and has been actively pursuing an agreement with Naples because of the high volume of landfill available.

The paperwork is now expected to be signed before the end of this week.

The Dutch-Italian deal comes as opponents of a controversial €102 million incinerator planned by Dublin City Council for the Poolbeg peninsula, near Sandymount, argue that Dublin does not generate anything near the 600,000 tonnes of rubbish a year needed to make the facility viable.

In the Netherlands, however, waste disposal companies have been trawling for refuse from other European countries in an effort to improve the efficiency of the waste-to-energy plants.

“That’s why we regard this deal as the perfect win-win situation”, says Dick Hoogendorn, managing director of the Dutch waste management association, Vereniging Afvalbedrijven, which negotiated the deal.

“It works for everyone: we hope to solve the refuse problem which has been a big embarrassment and health hazard for Naples for several years – and at the same time we will be generating energy for the Netherlands.”

Despite those benefits, Dr Bendiks Jan Boersma, professor of energy technology at the Technical University of Delft, says the regular transfer of so much mixed waste does inevitably raise legitimate environment and health concerns.

“When you transport so much waste from Italy to the Netherlands you bring with it all sorts of other undesirable things, such as trace elements, heavy metals, perhaps cadmium and mercury.

“The fact is that those substances remain here.”

The refuse crisis in Naples came to international attention in January 2008 after municipal workers refused to make domestic collections because the city’s landfill sites were full to overflowing.

At one point it was estimated there were as many as 200,000 tonnes of refuse piling up on the streets.

As health concerns grew, the government of Romano Prodi called the army in to clear the refuse using bulldozers, a move which prompted angry protesters to clash with police in the city centre.

At the time it was suggested that the Camorra – the local equivalent of the Mafia – was causing at least part of the problem because it had become involved in the lucrative waste-management business and frequently dumped hazardous waste illegally.