Dublin, Ireland — Ireland is currently landfilling an estimated 39 per cent of our municipal waste, down from 64 per cent in 2007. The waste infrastructure market is changing as the State moves away from the practice of landfilling towards more advanced and sustainable solutions. Ireland has a considerable way to travel before it can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best environmental performing European member states who have corresponding disposal rates of less than 5 per cent, says a new paper on „The State of Ireland. A Review on Infrastructure in Irland“, published by Engineers Ireland.
There has been no significant investment in landfills for a few years as a partial consequence of a decision on Poolbeg so the waste equation is balanced by reduced consumerism and the export of black bin waste. Should the economy show signs of recovery with the consequent increase in waste levels, the gap between capacity to manage and volume will grow and the absence of investment will be highlighted.
The current trend of exporting residual municipal (and hazardous) wastes for treatment to waste-to-energy, incineration and cement kilns in other European member states reflects Ireland’s inability to date to adequately manage its own residual wastes. The export solution is providing short-term gains, in terms of diverting waste from landfill, but it is a reactive and market-driven approach to a long-term environmental problem, where self-sufficiency is the preferred option for waste management, where possible. Energy generation and job creation are another positive gain.
Investment in infrastructure is needed if Irland is to close the capacity gap and become more self-reliant in terms of treating its own waste. The State’s existing capacities are unbalanced with high capacity levels of pre-treatment and mechanical treatment and below capacity levels of final destination facilities, e.g., biological treatment plants and waste-to-energy plants. Investment is needed in collection and treatment infrastructure, e.g., composting facilities, AD plants, if the State’s desire to manage organic wastes in a more sustainable and resource-focused manner is to be achieved.
The State needs to continue to fund and support national programmes and campaigns that are helping to drive the better use of resources and the prevention of wastes. Programmes and projects such as RX3; the National Waste Prevention Programme; and, reuse initiatives, such as freetradeireland.ie and SMILE, need continued investment if economic growth and waste arising are to be decoupled in a sustained manner.
The full paper can be downloaded from engineersireland.ie.
Source: Engineers Ireland