BUILDING-materials giant CRH looks set to start burning waste including bonemeal, tyres and plastic at the country's largest cement factory at Platin, Co Meath, less than 5km from Drogheda.
The factory is just 100 metres from the site of the country's first municipal incinerator, which is currently under construction, sparking environmental fears. It is also 40km away from a proposed bonemeal incinerator at Nobber, Co Meath.
Although the company has said the move is designed to reduce the plant's carbon emissions and its use of fossil fuels, the Sunday Tribune has learned that its management view it primarily as a cost-cutting measure.
In a statement released to selected local media, Barry Leonard, the plant's works manager, said that "not only are we achieving environmental benefits with these measures, but by improving competitiveness, we are helping to guarantee the jobs here at Platin".
Over the past year, demand for cement has collapsed by 25% due to the slowdown, and it is expected that the CRH subsidiary that runs the plant, Irish Cement, will announce a voluntary redundancy package in the near future.
Local environmentalist Pat O'Brien, who led the campaign against the incinerator, said he was very concerned about the move, particularly as "the jury is still out on whether bonemeal is a safe fuel".
Although the use of tyres and bonemeal reduces carbon dioxide emissions from cement plants, it increases their emissions of heavy metals such as mercury, lead and zinc into the atmosphere.
An Irish Cement spokeswoman said the move was an environmental initiative, not a cost-cutting measure. She said that tyres, bonemeal and other "alternative fuels" had been used by the cement industry in Europe for over 30 years.