Dáil Debate on Poolbeg Incinerator

Yesterday in the Dáil I raised the issue of the ongoing uncertainty in relation to the Poolbeg Incinerator in a topical issue debate with the Minister for Environment as the contract expired on the 31st August 2012.

On 29th February 2012 Dublin Local Authorities and Covanta reached agreement on revised commercial arrangements for the Poolbeg Incinerator with a final extension to the end of August. We were told at the time that this would be the third and final extension.

In June the Covanta Chief Financial Officer speaking at a JP Morgan conference in the US said that it was proving difficult to raise the necessary capital to fund the Poolbeg incinerator.

On the 31st August the contract for the Poolbeg incinerator with Covanta expired. There is no sign that they have been able to raise the money to construct it.

It has also been made clear by the Minister that the regulation of the waste market will not be rejigged to make the incinerator commercially viable by trying to give the councils control over waste collected by private companies.

It is now 15 years since the incinerator at Poolbeg was first proposed and it has cost us €91 million. Breaking down that numbers shows that €52 million has been spent on land alone, and another €30 million on consulting fees.

The original contract was to build a 600,000 tonne incinerator which is way too big for our current and future needs. It was also located in the wrong place, on a peninsula distant to most parts of Dublin city.

Waste Companies are holding back on investment that would allow us to meet our recycling and recovery targets. Those investments could be creating sustainable jobs.

In a report this month to Dublin City Council the City manager felt it reasonable to consider a further extension. All the facts I have outlined should lead to a different conclusion.

As Covanta have not been able to raise the necessary money under the terms of the contract it can be ended.

The City Manager had previously committed to ending the Contract – if by 31st August Covanta couldn’t commit to a construction start date. To date, we have not been informed of a start date.

We were told in March that this third time extension would be the final one granted to Covanta instead it appears to have been extended for the fourth time.

We are not generating anywhere near the amount of waste we used to and we have seen recycling grow sharply, up 40% nationwide.

We are not in any danger of missing our EU landfill directive targets as a recent EPA National Waste report showed that our recycling rate is 40%, 46% in Dublin alone, and that the volume going to landfill has fallen since 2009 by 13%..

We met our target two years ago for waste diversion from landfill and the data indicates we will meet our 2013 targets as well.

Even If we were in any danger of not meeting our 2016 target, we can seek a four year extension under the EU landfill directive as 12 other EU countries including the UK have done.

It is estimated that there is enough national landfill capacity for 12 years, so there is no urgency on the Poolbeg incinerator, nor is there the required volume to feed it.

Over 650,000 tonnes of private waste recovery infrastructure has come online in the last 2-3 years which alone exceeds the tonnage of the Poolbeg project.

A report from SLR for the Irish Waste Management Association showed that we will comfortably reach our 2013 and 2016 targets for diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill so we will not be facing levies on that. Roll out of brown bins is still below 50% in Dublin and recovery nationally increased by 3% in 2010 alone.

About 900,000 tonnes of waste going to landfill is compostable so a much better use of money would be to encourage reuse rather than incineration.

For all these reasons, the contract for the Poolbeg incinerator should be ended, instead of extended for the fourth time.