Incineration Once Again



From top: Model of the incinerator planned for Cork Harbour; Dan Boyle

Plans for a toxic waste incinerator in Cork Harbour have resurfaced.

Will common sense now go up in smoke?

Dan Boyle writes:

It was fifteen years ago, almost to the day. A local reporter had tipped me off. A Belgian company was holding a press conference to announce their intention to construct not one, but two, incinerators in Cork Harbour. I invited myself.

The announcement had been carefully choreographed. It had been an open secret that senior officials in the Department of the Environment had been pushing incineration as a ‘convenient’ method of waste disposal. Consultants were appointed to come up with right answers, through the usual means of presenting contention as fact and doctoring the necessary figures.

The decision making process was turned arseways to produce a desired result. This would see the granting of an EPA licence before Bord Pleanala would decide if the proposed site was suitable for the suggested plant and buildings.

The director of the EPA, herself an IBEC appointment, declared herself in favour of incineration even as her organisation had yet to adjudicate on a licence. This was all part of the Department’s Yes Yes strategy.

However, in a rare show of independence, Bord Pleanala couldn’t give permission to a site with an inadequate road network that was prone to flooding.

There we thought it would lay. What I tried to do in the Oireachtas was to economically undermine incineration, to factor in its real environmental costs. Those pushing incineration didn’t seem to give damn about economics.

That fine public servant, John Tierney, when Dublin City Manager signed a contract for a Dublin incinerator days before John Gormley became Minister for the Environment.

Included in the contract was a clause that obliged the Irish taxpayer to pay the incinerator company whenever the Dublin local authorities did not present enough waste to burn.

Green objections to incinerators have never been about Nimbyism. We never wanted incinerators in anyone’s back yard. It’s a combustion process that adds to CO2. It undermines the need to recycle waste.

It’s a cocktail technology where different materials are mixed in quantities creating uncertainty as to what its potential by products are. It doesn’t get rid of waste, it merely puts it into other forms like fly ash and air pollution.

In government we drafted legislation which sought to introduce an incineration levy, that was to parallel an already existing landfill levy. The bill was published and was being considered when the government fell.

In his first act as Minister Phil Hogan took the bill, but removed the levy.

The viability of incineration increased hugely. Indaver, the Belgian company, last Monday announced its intention to resubmit its Cork application. It has reason to be even more confident that it will be successful this time.

The current Director General of the EPA is the person previously who presented the environmental case for Indaver at previous EPA and Bord Pleanala hearings.

When it comes the policy and decision making in Ireland it’s a very very small World.

Dan Boyle is former Green Party Td. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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67 thoughts on “Incineration Once Again

  1. Joni2015

    Incineration is an excellent way to dispose of waste by generating energy. Pollutants are removed after burning.

    1. Dan Boyle

      A very very inefficient and expensive way of producing energy. Pollutants are far from removed. You’ve been reading those consultants reports the High Court determined were works of fiction haven’t you?

      1. Joni2015

        The swedes actually import waste to generate energy. Of their own waste half is recycled and half is incinerated. If it’s good enough for them…

        1. Rosie Cargin

          The economic and environmental arguments against incineration have been won in public hearings in Ireland and also at a comprehensive and academically adjudicated debate at Trinity College Dublin. Having listened in great detail to all the submissions from Indaver, (the company wishing to build the burners in Cork Harbour) , and all the manythe Planning Inspector gave 14 strong reasons why planning permission should be refused. His recommendation was ignored by the Board and that was disgraceful. 30,000 people in Cork educated themselves on this and opposed it. The elected Cork Co. Council members voted against incineration anywhere in Cork. Their wishes were contravened by a new government directive. There was not one valid submission in favour of Indaver’s project. They are masters of misinformation. For example Indaver Ireland director John Ahern had the gall to say only yesterday on Morning Ireland that the proposed site had never flooded. We have photos taken after recent storms to prove the exact opposite! Incineration is outdated, dirty and its emissions damage health and wildlife. It is a major emitter of greenhouse gases too. Other countries that built years ago are stuck with long contracts and they have to keep the wasted materials coming in order for the wretched burners to keep going! The only party to benefit from this project would be the incinerator company. And lazy government. Please help us to protect the harbour and the health of our people and environment.

      2. ollie

        Dan, are you happy to see Ireland exporting waste that can’t be recycled to other countries for incineration which is what currently happens? Do you see any merits in incineration?

      3. Rob_G

        But is it now the case that waste is shipped abroad to be incinerated elsewhere? That seems worse for the environment, tbh.

        1. Dan Boyle

          We don’t produce enough toxic waste to justify incineration. Such waste would have to be imported. It the past 15 years through not having incineration we have stabilised and not increased the amount of toxic waste created.

          1. ollie

            So Dan what should we do with our toxic waste, which by the way has dropped in volume mainly as a result of the construction crash? Bury it? Recycle it? Export it? Burn it?

        2. Rosie Cargin

          Approx 30% of what goes into an incinerator comes out as ash, much of which is hazardous and requires specialised, expensive landfill facilities. It was proposed by Indaver at the last oral hearing that this ash be exported as Ireland did not have such a landfill facility. (There was no complementary application to provide one either.) Yet, Indaver sold the message that incineration obviated the need for landfill and that Ireland should not export its waste!
          The energy recovered from the burning process is small compared with the energy expended in production. We need to look at long term solutions to the problem of our profligate, throwaway society, including legislation and tax incentives for better product and process design to minimise the waste of valuable materials. Companies whose products leave a problematic waste product need to be taxed to cover the cost to society of dealing with it. Waste is a resource in the wrong place and we must return to a circular system of materials use, as takes place in nature, where nothing is wasted, if we wish to survive on this planet. Sending our wasted materials to incineration facilities is very expensive. And don’t imagine that Indaver will give away the energy derived from it for nothing, We will pay through the nose again for that. They will be rubbing their hands all the way to the bank at our stupidity..

          1. David

            Well said Rosie and well put. I’ll vote for you.

            Get rid of REPAK. Responsibility for so-called ‘waste’ has to go back to those who produce it.

    2. Frilly Keane

      Good stuff Jonie

      Quick off the mark like that

      That precision is remarkable
      Almost unbelievable

  2. Truth in the News

    What exactly do they propose to burn can it not be recycled, the claims made
    about the involvement of certain officals in the Dept of the Enviroment in respect
    of inceneration policy need scrutiny, as to the EPA independence, it gives rise to serious public concern, action needs to be taken to allay this preception, or they
    will lose all credbility, like Irish Water.

  3. Bogbollox

    Incineration is a mature technology which can work great at disposing of waste and generating energy. However I think the technical issue here is the variation in feedstock, meaning the process won’t be optimized, leading to inefficiency in both energy generation and waste stabilization?

    Or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s just NIMBYisim.

    1. Clampers Outside!


      And Tierney’s shoving of the shortfall in profits onto the public is disgusting.

      He doesn’t do anything to benefit the public, he only works for the benefit of who is getting the next lucrative contract. He’s a useless, dangerous and a stupid individual !

  4. Drogg

    Dan can you supply more then one peer reviewed paper to back up your claims about incineration energy? It has been very successful across the content with research to prove it and it is better for the environment then some of our current fossil fuel energy sources. Also isn’t there incentives and fines to stop the burning of recyclable materials?

  5. ollie

    The Dublin incinerator was approved by An Bord pleanala in 2007, when the Green Party was in power.
    At the time, the Greens objected to the location and size of the incinerator, but not the technology or the concept.

    I remember when Dublin Corporation began building on Wood Quay, at least then people who objected stood by their principles and didn’t just pay lip service and faux outrage.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Wrong. We have always opposed the technology and the fact that it can’t exist with a sustainable waste management policy.

      1. ollie

        No Dan you are wrong. All Green Party objections were for location, size and economic reasons, according to green party web site.
        The greater shame in this is the destruction of an amenity like Poolbeg by successive governments, including the Green party’s time in power.
        Imagine a European city having an area within walking distance of the centre of the capital city with scenic views and sandy beaches, and instead of developing this as an amenity the government allows the area to become home to an incinerator, power station, scrap yard and sewage plant.
        Meanwhile, Dan Boyle gets irked when an incinerator is planned for Cork. A slight touch of nimbyism perhaps?

        1. Dan Boyle

          As someone responsible for formulating policy I’m fairly sure what I was objecting to and why. It was never about location. It was always about a sustainable waste management policy.

          1. bisted

            ‘…As someone responsible for formulating policy’ …in fairness Dan the greens were great at formulating things …but not at implementing them.

          2. ollie

            Dan, I have trawled the green party web site and Dail records and I stand over what I said, All Green Party objections were for location, size and economic reasons.
            prove me wrong.

          3. Dan Boyle

            You’ve read what you’ve wanted to read. Show me any contribution I made that says I opposed location over technology. That I was happy have proposed incinerators located anywhere else.

          4. Kieran NYC

            Can you set out your evidence there, Ollie? since you’ve *totally* researched it all.

            or are you just talking out your bottom as usual?

    2. Rosie Cargin

      Objections to An Bord Pleanala have to be made on planning grounds. Not on other common sense issues. The Green Party and all the many others who objected had many other concerns that could not be taken into account by the Bord, e.g. the effect of emissions on health and and agriculture. There is no official body that is concerned with the adverse health effects of incinerator emissions to which we could appeal. Moreover, there has been, as far as I’m aware, no baseline health survey in relation to the people living downwind of the incinerator and air quality monitoring in this country is almost non-existent, entirely inadequate. Irish people deserve better. John Tierney has done a grave dis-service to Dublin over Poolbeg and of course he has wasted millions of our money on favoured consultants for Irish Water.

  6. Clampers Outside!

    Not surprised to hear John Tierney did that. The man is an incompetent self serving scumbag… the incinerator debacle… Eyre Sq Galway… sale of refuse collection to Greyhound…. Irish Water…. the man has more fupp ups on his CV than a Norman Wisdom character !

  7. Mayor Quimby

    Hmm. What are Dan Boyle’s scientific qualifications?

    Has he ever conducted laboratory research?

    Has he published any scientific papers?

    Can he read scientific papers?

    1. Dan Boyle

      I know some people who have, can and do. You learn a lot as you go along in this life. I love how far some of the posters here make it all about the person. You could all lead such richer lives.

      1. inPisces

        You could try responding to the substantive point raised there Dan instead of making it “all about the person”

        1. Dan Boyle

          I did respond. I’m not a scientist. It is known I’m not a scientist. Neither are most people who opine here. I secure information from people I trust who I know have such backgrounds. Like most people who post here. And you do pick up the gist of more than a few things as you go along. Involvement in any campaign finds you wiser having undertaken it. You should inform yourself sometime.

        2. Rosie Cargin

          Dear Drogg,
          We have had 4 public hearings in Cork, where expert evidence was produced of the damage to health from incinerator emissions by doctors (Irish Doctors’ Enironmental Association) , peaediatric toxicologists (Dr. Gavin ten Tusscher of Amsterdam University), Dr. Vyvyan Howard of Liverpool University, the Midwives Association of Ireland. Expert evidence was also provided by geologists, flood and erosion experts. Environmental consultants (Eunomia) and many others showed, by statistical evidence, that incineration was not beneficial to us economically either. At the end of these hearings there was not a reasonable person present who thought that building incinerators was in any way a good idea. So please, there is ample evidence.

        1. Dan Boyle

          Don’t be silly. Mild compared to most abuse I put up with. He obviously does need to inform himself. One several posters who seem to do nothing other but play semantic games.

  8. Katie

    Actually incinerators are not an efficient way to dispose of waste. They are expensive to build, manage and decommission for a life of about 40 years. Even the waste-to-energy incinerators are not completely efficient. There is always some emissions to air and whilst there are tight restrictions on those emissions it doesn’t stop malfunctions or human error causing potentially harmful chemical mixtures entering the atmosphere. From memory limestone is commonly used to neutralise toxic materials and a giant magnet is used to remove heavy metals. The flues need replacing regularly,
    Plus I’d query why a toxic incinerator is needed when the industries that use such materials previously said there was no demand for a purpose built incinerator.
    Also, why are toxic materials being mixed with non-toxic wastes when each require separate temperatures and durations to burn. Where is the bottom ash going to be disposed of?
    Also, the EPA don’t have the expertise to administer the licence for an incinerator let alone ensure the parameters are adhered too.
    Also, why on a flood plain and apparently part of the land is prone to coastal erosion, this is the part I ready don’t understand, do they want a fall-out?

    1. ollie

      In that case KAtie what do we do with out hazardous waste that can’t be buried or recycled?. Currently we export this problem, is this fair?

      1. Katie

        Perhaps exporting the waste is the safest thing to do. It’ll take years before the incinerator is up and running so the waste, presumably, will continue to be exported. If there is an actual demand for the plant why go to all that trouble to build it on unsuitable land? The businesses can’t be forced to use the plant so post-build they will carry on exporting the waste. I honestly can’t see why Indaver are so determined to go ahead here.

      2. Nigel

        Conceivably, exporting the waste might be a better solution than building an incinerator, even if it’s not in and of itself a good solution.

      3. Marcia

        This proposed incinerator is not going to burn the hazardous waste about which I believe you are talking, Ollie. It is proposed to be a 240,000 tonne facility, 200,000 tonnes of which will be municipal solid waste (non-hazardous). The remaining 40,000 tonnes is planned for light hazardous waste like soiled clothing, cloths, etc. The same type of hazardous wastes that are currently accepted at the Indaver Ireland incinerator in Co. Meath which, ironically, started out life as a non-hazardous incinerator only but not long after they were up and running, Indaver went back into planning to get permission to burn some light hazardous wastes also.
        Indaver Ireland is owned by a Flemish port company. It has large incinerators in its home country. Indaver Ireland makes a most of its profits from exporting hazardous waste. It is not in their interests to see this practice cease.

        1. Rosie Cargin

          If they get this permission, Indaver will be both importing waste to ensure max volumes/profit and exporting hazardous ash unless/until someone builds an Irish facility for it). That’s why they insist on a harbour site. Cork harbour is not conveniently or centrally situated despite the fact that the plan is that it will serve
          the entire southern region.

  9. Katie

    Here’s a copy of the hazardous management plan
    Even if the waste is non-hazardous, which would make more sense,, personally I’d be concerned with the risk of erosion and flooding and how they deal with it 20 – 30 years down the line. Someone did tell me that 15% lightly hazardous waste can be burned in the municipal plant.

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