Roche expresses regret at recycling plant closure

Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche, TD, has expressed his regret at the announcement that Ireland's only paper mill plant with a recycling capacity will have to be closed down.

Established in 1954, the loss of Smurfits paper mill plant will immediately diminish Ireland's recycling capacity, Mr Roche stated, and would leave many citizens without a job.

"Significant progress has been made in raising recycling levels in Ireland in recent year," he said. "The closure of Smurfit means, in the short term at least, that we must now transport all of the waste paper and cardboard collected for recycling overseas."

"But we all agree that higher and sustained levels of recycling are crucial to dealing with the increased levels of waste being generated in this country, and we will work to ensure that we retain our status as an environmentally conscious nation."

However, Mr Roche added that, while an inconvenience, there was no real cause for alarm at loss of the recycling facility, as the Smurfit plant only had a capacity to process around 45,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard each year, a relatively small amount by international standards.

Statistics from Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also show that, of the 358,000 tonnes of paper waste collected for recycling in 2003, only around a third was actually recycled at the island's own plant.

"In effect, the vast majority of the increasing volumes of paper and cardboard being collected for recycling are already being shipped abroad," Mr Roche continued. "While I regret the Smurfit announcement, we must continue to look at ways of further improving our material recovery performance for paper and cardboard."

He confirmed that Irish authorities had recently commissioned a consultancy study in conjunction with the UK Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in order to examine the feasibility of developing a new paper mill in Ireland.

"In light of the closure of the Smurfit plant, the commissioning of this consultancy study is timely, and I await its conclusions with interest," he concluded.

By Jane Kettle



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