Covanta, the American waste company behind Dublin’s controversial Poolbeg incinerator, has been given until August 31 to come up with the funding and satisfy regulators about the scheme.
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If it succeeds, work will start on the plant by 5 November, according to the latest agreement it has reached with Dublin City Council.
The company was given its new – and final – deadline after it failed to meet the previous one on 29 February.
The £294m project has faced much opposition, led by former Green Party environment minister John Gormley. He fears the proposed 600,000 tonne incinerator is too big and the four local authorities involved could incur contractual penalties for failing to supply the 320,000 tonnes of waste a year Covanta demands.
He has called for the publication of a report he commissioned on the project which casts doubt on whether there is enough waste in the capital to fuel the plant in light of the economic downturn and rising recycling rates.
But Dublin City Council has always been confident the scheme is viable and in its latest statement says the authorities “believe that there is now a definitive path to recommencement of construction of this much-needed infrastructure and also to the recoupment of all costs expended”, a figure estimated at 80 million euros.
Another company, Indaver Ireland, last month offered to take over the Poolbeg project and scale it back to a 400,000 tonne capacity.
Indaver operates Ireland’s first municipal waste incinerator at Carranstown, County Mayo, which started burning waste last September.
The 200,000 tonne, 140 million euro plant also attracted controversy and met with 4,000 objections to the original planning application lodged in 2001. Indaver makes a donation to a community fund for every tonne of waste it burns.
Greyhound Recycling and Recovery, which took over household waste collection from Dublin City Council in December, has gone to the High Court to stop a rival company collecting its bins.
Meanwhile, more than 13,000 households that have not paid for the service continue to have their waste collected despite the firm saying it would stop. The threat attracted heated arguments in the Dail with fears the city would become a “cesspool”.
Greyhound has also announced ‘per-lift’ charges are to be increased by 16% following a hike in landfill levies from 50 euros to 65 euros a tonne, and warned it will end the waiver scheme that exempts 33,000 low-income households from the standing charge at the end of the year.
Rival waste firms in the city have reportedly been poaching customers from Greyhound which accuses one of them, Key Waste, of using its bins.
Some 17,000 waiver households in South Dublin County also face the prospect of having their bins left unemptied from April as the subsidy deal with that council, which sold its list to Greyhound a year ago, runs out. The company has called on the government to step in and subsidise the service.
‘Make residual waste a priority’
by James Wilmore
Dealing with residual waste should be the “highest priority” in Ireland’s waste infrastructure, according to a report by Engineers Ireland into the country’s infrastructure.
“To enable waste management plans to be implemented will require the proper regulation of waste collection and local authorities to exercise the power to direct waste to higher order treatment facilities,” the State of Ireland 2012 report says. It argues the unregulated collection of Irish waste - unique to the EU - “cannot be allowed to continue”.
The report also suggests the “ongoing debate over the most appropriate technologies for residual waste management” has led to uncertainty in the waste sector and stalled the development of a sustainable policy. However, the report also notes the Irish public’s commitment to recycling has increased dramatically in the last decade.
“There has been a definite shift away from people burning their own waste or fly-tipping and the momentum gained in this area is at risk in the face of poor collection coverage and increasing waste charges,” the report states. It says a “consistent approach” to proving information on to recycling is needed across the country.