Incinerators stymie progress

 

Sir, – I have learned that approval is being given for the instalment of an incineration process in the Cork Harbour area. An incinerator could well have a place at that location should it be used to safely incinerate toxic organic waste, and as such might be of assistance to the excellent pharmaceutical initiatives based in Cork. I understand that incineration is under consideration for other parts of the country, and I urge the councils in these areas to consider other highly desirable conservational solutions that are now available. I have listened to the very valid objections made on radio to incineration by Mary O’Leary of the Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (Chase) and Green Party TD Eamon Ryan.

In my view there is no such thing as organic waste as long as it is non-toxic. Rather it should be considered as a resource. All that comes from the soil that is not used for food and fibre should be returned to the soil.

Most of the highly fertile soils of the world are under long-term cultivation and the soil organic matter in these is being seriously depleted. That depletion of soil organic matter takes place to the depth that it exists in the soil profile. It is estimated that 100 crops from now (much less in many cases) the soil organic matter in long-term cultivated soils will be depleted, the soil structure will be degraded, fertility lost and serious soil erosion will take place. That should not apply in Ireland for as long as our soils are used to support grass and forest, but the situation is very serious for most of the fertile soils of the world because long-term cultivation practises have already seriously depleted their soil organic matter reserves.

Consideration should also be given to the fact that the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels do not discriminate between that from fossil fuels and that from soil organic matter in soils in long-term cultivation. (We are not being credited for our vast sequestration of carbon in our grassland soils.)

I strongly urge those who are considering incineration to take account of the modern technologies that process so-called organic wastes. These technologies render putrescible organic wastes and sewage sludges pathogen-free and the products are excellent sources of slow-release fertilisers, and of soil conditioners (transforming to soil organic matter and acting as preservers of soil structure).

We also have technologies that can process paper and lignocellulosic biomasses into chemicals that will replace petroleum.

Incineration will stymie progress, and will be of no value to the environment – Yours, etc,

Dr MICHAEL

HB HAYES MRIA,

Adjunct Professor,

Carbolea Group

(Research

group for advanced

biomass strategies

and technologies),

University of Limerick.