Poolbeg incinerator reduces exported waste by just 7%

More incineration needed if Ireland to break reliance on exportation- European body

More incineration will be required if Ireland is to break its reliance on export of waste, according to the the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP)

The confederation was commenting as it emerged that the State’s largest incinerator, the 600,000 tonnes-a-year Poolbeg incinerator operated by Covanta, has only reduced volumes of exported waste by some seven per cent.

CEWEP vice-president and commercial director of Indevar Ireland, Jackie Kearney, said lack of capacity in the Republic would see the State export an estimated 300,000 of municipal waste this year.

Northern Ireland exported about 100,000 tonnes of waste last year indicating that capacity on the island was was well below anything approaching the ability of the island to deal with its own waste.

According to figures from the TransFrontier Shipments Office obtained by RTÉ, the State export of household waste is down by just seven per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared to last year. The Poolbeg incinerator has been working at maximum capacity since last December.

Covanta, which operates the waste to energy plant, said just over 67 per cent of its fuel comes from the four local authorities in the Dublin region.

Overall, 85 per cent of its fuel comes from Leinster.

Covanta and Indaver are both members of CEWEP which has encouraged states to build their own capacity to handle waste.

In the Republic, Indaver has been progressing plans for an incinerator for the best part of 20 years, and a much-postponed decision is due from An Bord Pleanála on May 25th. The proposed incinerator would be similar in size and operation to Indaver’s Co Meath plant near Duleek. In addition, two cement kilns have been permitted to increase their municipal waste by 130,000 tonnes a year.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland a “gasification” plant proposed for Belfast to handle some 180,000 tonnes of waste annually is expected to be operational this year. A second plant proposed for Newtonabbey would have capacity for a further 220,000 tonnes.

CEWEP is in favour of all proposed plants being approved, a move which would allow the island to be self sufficient in handling its own waste. Ms Kearney said the alternative was to keep exporting waste on a speculative basis to waste to energy plants in Europe, which are market driven and may see capacity taken up by local needs.

The Netherlands, which is the destination for much of Ireland’s exported waste, currently has population expansion plans which would account for available capacity there.

Ms Kearney said the clear conclusion was that the island would need all four waste to energy plants, the two in Northern Ireland, Duleek, Poolbeg and Cork, if it is to be self sufficient in managing its own waste.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist