Incineration vital if landfill targets to be met, says agency


INCINERATION MUST be part of the infrastructure to help meet EU landfill targets, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.

Speaking following the release of a report on landfilling in Ireland, Dara Lynott, director of the agency’s office of environmental enforcement, said if Ireland is to avoid fines from the EU it must reduce biodegradable waste to landfill by three-quarters of a million tonnes.

“We feel there is not enough infrastructure to meet those targets; more will be required and incineration is definitely part of that mix,” he said.

Focus on Landfilling in Ireland, a report released yesterday by the agency, found the number of municipal landfill dumps here had decreased from 100 in 1995 to 29.

Two more, at Balally, south Dublin, and Arthurstown, Co Kildare, are also set to close.

Furthermore, current local authority dumps will be full by 2020.

The numbers of privately operated dumps have increased and now account for one-third of the sector, the report said.

Landfills are licensed by the agency and must meet EU standards.

Some 15 landfill operators were prosecuted by the agency between 2001 and 2009 for breaches of standards and were fined over €50,000, with costs of almost €200,000.

Over 200 notices of non-compliance were issued for landfills in 2008 and 2009.

Last year, more than 1,500, or over 70 per cent, of complaints from the public about landfills were odour-related.

Corranure landfill, run by Cavan County Council, appeared to be the most malodorous dump in the country with over 600 complaints against it.

The Knockharley site, run by Greenstar Holdings Ltd in Meath, attracted 311 complaints, and the Kerdiffstown dump near Naas, Co Kildare, run by Neiphin Trading Ltd, had 308.

Under the EU landfill directive, Ireland must cut its biodegradable waste to landfill from 1.2 million tonnes in 2008 to 0.427 million tonnes by 2016.

The first deadline for the graduated reduction passed in July this year. Though exact figures for 2010 will not be available to the agency until late next year, Mr Lynott said it looked as though Ireland would meet that reduction target.

However, it will become increasingly difficult to meet the targets for the following years without better infrastructure, he said.

“We are going to have to build more composting facilities, bio-mechanical treatment facilities and incinerators; a whole range of infrastructure.”

Asked if he thought the controversial Poolbeg incinerator, already licensed by the agency but opposed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley, was necessary to meet EU targets, Mr Lynott said it was not the agency’s role to say where an incinerator should be built.

“It is our role to ensure it technically meets standards,” he said.

The report also said all local authorities must roll out the brown bin service – for household biodegradable waste – to assist in meeting landfill reduction targets.

The agency would also continue to prioritise the enforcement of landfill gas limits, the cause of bad smells, the report said. The gas, which contains high levels of methane, also poses other environmental risks if not properly managed.

It could be used to a greater degree than at present to produce energy, the report recommended.