Irish recycling success fuels call for incinerators

Attempts to reduce waste and boost recycling in Ireland seem to be working according to a report published by the Environment Protection Agency this week, but the Government claims more incinerators are needed to continue progress.

The Irish EPA’s National Waste Report 2004 shows a steady rise in recycling in recent years and a corresponding fall in landfill.

The figures show a surge in the number of homes with kerbside recycling facilities together with a more modest increase in the number of civic amenity sites and ‘bring banks’.

Mirroring the boost to recycling outlets is a reduction in the number of landfills accepting municipal waste.

The strategy appears to be paying off, with Ireland on course to meet its waste management targets.

Between 2002 and 2004 household recycling went up by over 10% to 19.5%, showing that while there is still a way to go the country could meet its goal of 50% by 2013.

When it comes to recycling municipal waste, the picture is even more rosy, with an increase of almost 13% over the last two years covered by the report, to 33.6%.

The target is 35% by 2013.

And the national target for recycling packaging waste, 50% by 2005, had already been reached by 2004 when it was 56.4%.

Environment Minister Dick Roche has claimed the report as an endorsement of Government policy.

“Government policy on waste management is working,” he said on Tuesday.

“Today’s report shows that we are really starting to see significant results from the coherent, integrated waste management policies put in place by the Government in recent years.

“Recycling is up, landfilling is down but provision of infrastructure and sustained enforcement are key to future progress.”

“I welcome these figures, they clearly vindicate the policies adopted and implemented by this Government.

“People in Ireland want recycling and have responded exceptionally well to improved services.”

While the recycling rate for construction waste looks high on paper, at 85%, the minister accepted the EPA’s concerns over the lack of data collected for this waste stream.

He added that there is a need to improve recycling of core construction and demolition waste not just soil recovery and to this end the Department was finalising new guidelines on construction and demolition waste planning for individual projects.

“I hope to be in a position to put the guidelines to the National Construction and Demolition Waste Council for their endorsement shortly”, said Roche.

Referring to remaining deficits in infrastructure highlighted by the report, he added: “This report highlights just how far we have come in the transformation of waste management practice in Ireland in the recent past.

“Yet it is clear that there remains a major gap in the management of our waste and that is the lack of waste to energy thermal treatment facilities in Ireland.

“We are out of step in this regard with the rest of Europe. The decisions by the EPA to grant licences for two new thermal treatment facilities in Ireland represent a significant change.

It is time for Ireland to take responsibility for the waste produced here. It is simply not acceptable that we export our waste for disposal on our EU neighbours.

Exporting our hazardous waste will not, in particular, always be open to us. If we do not deal with it ourselves we will see a serious threat to our industrial base, particularly in an area like Cork where the economic engine is dependent on the pharmaceutical industry.”

“All the building blocks have been put in place – the policy, the legislation and resources – and now we are starting to see results.

“But we need to do more. We need more waste prevention, more minimisation and more infrastructure for thermal treatment so we can further reduce our reliance on landfill.”

By Sam Bond

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