Green Party to face dilemma as Minister backs incinerator plan

 

By Dick Hogan from the Irish Times

 

The proposal from Belgian company Indaver to build Ireland's first hazardous waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy has taken a new twist, particularly for the Green Party. While the party is vehemently opposed to incineration, and the Ringaskiddy proposal in particular, the semi-autonomous government of Flanders in Belgium has decided to grant planning permission to the same firm for a new incinerator near the city of Beveren.

 

What's more, the application was approved by the Minister for the Environment and Agriculture, Ms Vera Dua, a member of the local Green Party.

 

Unlike Ireland, which has a dismal recycling record, people in Flanders take their responsibilities seriously and the region has achieved one of the highest recycling rates in the world - 66 per cent and climbing.

 

The permission granted to Indaver will now lead to a complete ban on the dumping of untreated waste in landfill sites. Landfill is running out in Belgium as it is in Ireland, but pro-active policies have been adopted there to cope with the situation and in Flanders, visited by Irish journalists last year, it was obvious they were working.

 

The Indaver planning application to Ms Dua's department, (under Flemish law, the department decided the issue after an appeal) was for a 460,000 tonne plant capable of handling 230,000 tonnes of sewage sludge and 230,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste annually.

 

Permission was sought for a fluidised bed incinerator, the same type of technology which the company has asked Cork Co Council to approve at Ringaskiddy on Cork Harbour.

 

In Ringaskiddy, however, the application is for a hazardous rather than non-hazardous waste facility, although it would incorporate newer technology than similar plants operated by Indaver in Flanders.

 

Fine Gael has reversed its policy on incineration and now opposes it, like the Greens and Sinn Féin, while Fianna Fáil sees it as a necessary component of Ireland's waste management strategy.

 

The Labour Party, says it is implacably opposed and that incineration could cause more problems than it solves. Mr Brendan Ryan, the party's candidate in Cork South Central, the constituency in which Indaver's plant would be located, says an incinerator would reduce the impetus to re-use and recycle and would leave both domestic and industrial waste producers off the hook.

 

Mr Ryan is a chemical engineer and teaches many students who go on to work in pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

 

Some of them are employed in the Cork Harbour-based companies where already there are five privately-owned incinerators in operation.

 

The difference, he says, is that these are run by chemical engineers who understand the particular waste streams with which they deal, while Indaver's proposal would create "a monster" that would have to be fed by touting for business.

 

Buoyed by the decision of the Flemish government, Indaver says rational examination will show that incineration is a safe and useful element of a total waste management strategy.