Converting Irish waste to energy is catching on, says EPA

EPA warns of increasing reliance on exporting waste for treatment abroad

The Environmental Protection Agency says the change in waste handling is linked to recent landfill levies and increasing “recovery” - a term that includes recycling and the recovery of energy . Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill /The Irish Times

The Environmental Protection Agency says the change in waste handling is linked to recent landfill levies and increasing “recovery” - a term that includes recycling and the recovery of energy . Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill /The Irish Times

 

Less of the Republic’s residual waste is going to landfill and more is being used as an energy source, according to the latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the agency the change in waste handling is linked to recent landfill levies and increasing “recovery” - a term that includes recycling and the recovery of energy .

Residual or “black bin” waste is typically used as a fuel source for cement kilns and is used to generate electricity at Indaver Ireland’s waste-to-energy incinerator in Co Meath.

In waste management hierarchy, recovering energy from waste, usually by incineration, is more desirable than burying it in the ground.

The EPA said while there was a slight increase in the quantity of energy recovered from household waste in 2013, there was also an increasing reliance on exporting such waste for treatment abroad.

Dr Jonathan Derham, programme manager with the agency, said this represents a lost opportunity in terms of potential energy recovery and jobs for the State.

“This needs to be countered with national waste infrastructure to bring forward opportunities for the re-use of value-added material, and to create a circular economy,” he said.

There was also a slight increase in compostable waste from households and commercial premises which was treated at composting facilities in 2013. The increase included an 8 per cent rise in “brown bin” waste which is mainly food waste.

However, the agency said it expected a more significant increase in the volume of compostable waste in coming years following the roll out of brown bins to households on a phased basis from July 2013. The process is expected to be complete by July 2016.

According to Dr Derham the latest figures indicate a number of positive developments.

“In particular, the EPA welcomes the continued movement of residual waste away from landfill to energy recovery. However, an increasing reliance on the export of such waste is unsustainable” he said.