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Analysis/Comment Last Updated: Jun 14, 2011 - 7:57 AM


Ireland, waste incineration and gombeenism
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Jun 13, 2011 - 6:32 AM

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The Austrian delegation outside The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, after the Austria Showcase on Waste Management Technology, June 2009.

The latest installment of the long-running waste incineration saga in Ireland was delivered on Friday and it looked like another triumph for contemporary gombeenism.

The Sunday Independent reported that "Ireland's environmental lobby has claimed a decisive victory over incineration with the rejection by An Bord Pleanála of a €150m burner first put forward by Indaver in 2000," to handle the burning of hazardous waste in Ringaskiddy by Cork Harbour - -  the nucleus of the crucial American-owned pharmaceutical industry in Ireland.

The term 'environmental lobby' can include a spectrum of interests including the selfish who want a modern life as long as the risks are located elsewhere.

We have objectors to the Corrib gas project who want their cars fuelled by products coming on a dangerous supply chain from thousands of miles away and regular payments from Brussels via the Common Agricultural Policy are also a help but they object to the harnessing of an energy resource under their noses.

In Germany, the government has agreed to phase-out the nuclear industry but the NIMBYS (Not in My Backyard Syndrome) are ramping up campaigns against wind farms and the routing of a new grid that will carry electricity from the north.

Almost 50% of Irish hazardous waste is exported and the pharmaceutical/ medical devices sectors account for 60% of merchandise exports and 33% of total tradeable exports.

These statistics are likely of no consequence to the zealots who may be making a living from the State or from sources distant from commercial realities.

While Indaver has not helped its case with the issue of the risk of flooding raised by the planning board, in common with the saga about the proposed municipal incinerator at Poolbeg in Dublin, it's not difficult to see a link between what caused a collapsed economy and those who want to have their cake and eat it - - a modern life without the downsides.

Barry Roche reported in The Irish Times: "In April 2003 then Cork county manager Maurice Moloney proposed a material contravention of the county development plan, but a month later councillors voted by 30-13 against allowing rezoning, and in June 2003 Indaver appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála.

The harbour alliance and more than 20 other parties lodged counter-appeals, and the alliance demanded an oral hearing which the board granted. In September and October 2003 both sides made submissions at the hearing in Neptune Stadium in Cork.

Senior planning inspector Philip Jones recommended refusal of planning on 14 specific grounds, but in January 2004 the board decided to override his recommendations and grant planning to Indaver for a hazardous waste incinerator."

There is a startling contrast between Ireland and Austria in many ways including economic management. Austria has an unemployment rate that is almost as low as 4% but dare we have the vision to emulate their national waste management policy.

We love to talk and argue but fix broken governance systems and ending pervasive gombeenism, is another story.

Vienna has three municipal waste incinerators and one of them supplies more than a quarter of a million houses and over 5,000 industrial consumers, with heating.

Austria had 42 operating waste incineration facilities and 17 MBT (mechanical and biological treatment plants for waste) in 2009, which are part of a sophisticated waste management and recycling system.

In 2010, Austria was estimated to have generated 78.1% of its electricity from renewable sources - - the highest in the EU - - compared with 13.2% in Ireland.

Germany landfilled 0% of municipal waste in 2009 while 62% of Irish municipal waste was landfilled. The comparable rates were 1% in Austria and the Netherlands.

In 1999, Greenpeace Austria said: "The Austrian incinerating plants have a high environmental standard as far as air and water emissions are concerned. Compared to other sources (industry, traffic,...) air and water emissions are relatively low."

A delegation from the Austrian waste management industry visited Dublin in 2009.

The delegation said the Austrian experience shows that successful waste management requires the implementation of both incineration and. Not all waste can be treated with MBT and this is where incineration takes over.

Irish NIMBYS would prefer to export what is only suitable for incineration.

The Austrian delegation said the debate around incinerators in Ireland has been dominated by the notion of the negative impact caused by emissions, which spurred strong opposition among residents groups. However, this view is said to be misleading as emissions can be easily controlled with effective filter media. "The air that comes out of the incinerators is actually cleaner than the air sucked in," Volker Bilandt from Lenzing Plastics, a leading manufacturer of filter components for removing dust from incinerators, pointed out.

The zealots and selfish will never be convinced by facts.

We need EU directives to be forced to provide quality water and end conventional landfilling which endangers that water supply.

Then some wonder why an unaccountable system where problems are only addressed when they morph into a crisis, result in an economic crash.

This is where politicians should have a role in facing down the gombeenism.

However, experience says that they're likely to be jellyfish, despite the economic challenges including hundreds of thousands of unemployed.

Maybe the 'environmental lobby' will provide the jobs?

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© Copyright 2011 by Finfacts.com

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