EPA end of year report card on recycled waste, says ‘could do much better’

The EPA recently released its figures for recycling of waste in Ireland for 2012- 13 and alarmingly the rising quantities of Residual waste being exported. It applauded our efforts in diverting waste from Landfill and then expressed serious concern with the 197% increase we had in exported Residual waste amounting to 340.000 Tonnes in 2013.  There is a very good reason why this has become the norm and why it will unfortunately continue to be so for years to come.


1 Kt Bale's of mixed Residual - Household waste for export

1 Tonne Bale’s

EPA Conclusion:- Any waste exported abroad for energy recovery is a lost energy resource and opportunity for the State. A reliance on export as a management option poses a significant risk for Ireland should these export markets close in the future.


Ok ‘Residual or Black bin’ waste is Household or similar Commercial Black bin waste that has not been ‘Source – Separated’ and so can’t be ‘Segregated’ for recycling by a refuse collector after collection. Under the last Minister for the Environment, Community and local Government Mr Ex Environment Minister to Ireland.Hogan TD a long awaited document ‘A Resource Opportunity’ was eventually published. In its Foreword, so right at the start Mr Hogan said along the lines that this would give certainty to the recycling industry to invest in facilities and so create jobs. Brilliant that’s what everyone was looking for and then went on to say that refuse collectors must incentivise households to ‘Source – Separate’ their waste. The ink was hardly dry on the document when Mr Hogan was in a front page photo shoot on a National paper with a certain heavily foreign financed refuse company offering all 3 bins for the same low cost price, a practice I am delighted to say no longer exists and one which current Minister Alan Kelly described as ‘A Race to The Bottom’ and vowed to rectify.

So if your refuse collector did not financially encourage you to ‘Source – Separate’ your household waste and you then of course did not, well it falls into the category of ‘wasn’t or cant now be’ segregated after collection. The refuse collector can’t send this mixed waste to Landfill as its too expensive, resulting from the EU enforcing the closure of our Landfills. So he export’s it under R1 / 20.03.01./ WtE label, albeit at a lesser cost than that already charged ‘at Landfill rates’, but that’s another issue.  So how did Ireland and just us, manage to get to export our mixed waste without having to mechanically segregate it? Simple our Government in 2007 convinced the EU that Ireland should be allowed to export Minimally Treated – Mixed Residual – R1 Waste to Heat Recovery – WtE plants within the EU to deal with our over dependence on Landfill.  Ironically it suites these WtE plants not to have the mixed waste processed, as would cause problems with handling and processing at their end. Simply baling the waste correctly for export can be considered ‘Minimal Treatment’, as there is no standard for receiving this waste.

On this video from a Swedish WtE plant the engineer explains that for every 3 Tonne of mixed waste he receives, it is the equivalent to receiving 1 Tonne of Fuel oil and Sweden gets to keep the Irish high value recyclables too. Have we not learnt anything from our oil loss from Rockall?

So why not build a R1 or WtE plant here then we could keep our natural resources, benefit from its energy production and drastically reduce our Carbon footprint on not exporting. Indaver did build a 200,000 tpa facility in Carranstown Co Meath and was featured on Prime Times programme on problematic Poolbeg 600,000 tpa site in late 2014. However when its spokesperson Jane Hennessy was asked about the facility she stated that they would accept waste from anyone if segregated.  Em hold on, once it’s segregated!   I phoned Ms Hennessy at Indaver and asked why she said this considering it was at odds with our export requirement. She very kindly informed me that it was a requirement by the EPA in their licence agreement. So the EPA within Ireland can impose a requirement for mixed waste to be segregated prior to Incineration at a WtE facility, but can’t or possibly won’t be let impose a similar requirement for Mixed – Residual – R1 waste for export?

However in 2013 a report previously commissioned by CIWM on the seriousness implications of the above to the UK and Irish waste business, was published. The report was carried out by AMEC (Environment and Infrastructure UK) and part funded by Zero Waste Scotland, DEFRA and EPA Ireland. In short the report confirmed that low value ‘Mixed Waste’ was worryingly on the increase in Ireland and that its export although a quick fix for Landfill, long term it would create great uncertainty in securing any future investment in our recycling infrastructure.

Poolbeg WtE computer model

Poolbeg 2017?

Refuse collectors have now established long term contracts with WtE plants, as better rates were offered to such long term contracts. So regardless of how many WtE plants we build here in Ireland even with huge capacity for waste, these refuse companies will still be under contract to export their waste. Any WtE facility built here will always have to compete with the low cost’s of similar facilities in the likes of Sweden and Germany keen to fill their excess capacity. To combat this our Government must change our policy on exporting mixed R1 waste, and enforce maximum treatment of any waste we produce here same as our UK neighbours. Pay by Weight introduction in July 2015 will I feel go a long way to address this as households realise the financial benefits of ‘source – separating’ their waste. The Bio / Food waste fraction will finally be processed here through Anaerobic Digestion providing energy at local levels all over the country, and still provide a end product of organic fertilizer to feed, aerate, irrigate and bind our soil’s to grow the next harvest. We Irish are in the top 6 countries for generating the most waste per capita, and its a precious national resource that can heat and energise us, and provide much needed secure jobs this country badly needs.

Enda Kenny our Taoiseach in New York last September with all the world leaders pledged his governments support for action on climate change saying “We have no time to waste”, only to then ask the EU for Ireland to receive special concessions in a new 10-year plan to curb harmful Greenhouse gas emissions.

Special considerations again?

A very happy new year to all of you, and it looks like 2015 will be a better year for Ireland’s waste industry and job security within it. I just ask that each and every one of you tries to realise the value of waste, and see it in a new perspective as a resource no different from oil or gas. If that was in your Wheelie bin you would be selling it, Right!

Edited by :-

Denis Lawlor,

Owner Brown Bin Rescue

EPA Residual Waste Definition:-

Residual waste is the fraction of collected municipal waste (typically household and commercial black-bin) that isn’t or can’t be separated for recycling. Residual wastes also arise from mechanical and biological treatment of wastes and are the fraction that cannot be recycled.