Thursday 8 November 2007

EPA: We must stop exporting hazardous waste

ABOUT 10% of Irish hazardous waste is not being disposed of properly, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which also called on the Government to curb the widespread exporting of Irish hazardous waste.

While the remaining 90% is treated and disposed of through correct channels, the agency says we must stop exporting the problem and consider developing more hazardous waste landfills and improving incinerator capacity.

It is also calling for all-island solutions as such waste can now be easily carried over the Border.

The EPA yesterday published its National Hazardous Waste Management Plan.

The main aim of the plan, which has been released for public consultation, is to prevent and minimise hazardous waste and to manage, in an environmentally-sound manner, hazardous waste which cannot be prevented.

The document showed Ireland generated 284,184 tonnes of hazardous waste in 2006 - an 8% decrease on 2004 but still 10% ahead of 2001.

Nearly half of our hazardous waste, 48%, is exported for treatment and disposal, with the majority going to Britain, then Germany, Belgium and Denmark, where it is mostly incinerated or used as fuel.

About 31% of hazardous waste is treated at Irish integrated pollution prevention control-licensed factories, with this waste incinerated, recycled, used in landfill or as fuel.

A further 21% is treated off-site in Ireland by a network of 14 authorised hazardous waste treatment facilities.

In 2006, up to 91% of contaminated soil was exported for treatment, with the remainder treated at a single landfill in Ireland.

As part of the planned national waste management plan, the EPA has called for Ireland to become more "self sufficient". Dr Gerry Byrne - programme manager of the agency's office of climate, licensing and resource use - argued that "a significant proportion could be dealt with in Ireland at existing authorised facilities and in cement kilns".

The report said: "If Ireland were to become fully self-sufficient, hazardous waste landfill and incineration would be required.

"It is noted that while a hazardous waste incinerator is licensed to operate in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, there are no equivalent proposals on hand for hazardous waste landfill."

With more than 90% of contaminated soil removed from contaminated sites in 2006, the EPA argues that the country is losing valuable resource.

Claire O'Sullivan
Irish Examiner

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