Truth: Incineration is a wanton waste of a great resource. [See letter below].
Letter, Irish Times. Emphasis added.
It was considered that the ESRI report, commissioned by the Dublin City Council (DCC) vindicated the recommendation of the council engineers and executive to proceed with plans for an incinerator at Poolbeg. However, questions have been raised about significant matters in the report.
During the past two years I have repeatedly invited the DCC executive to engage in an open debate regarding the wisdom of spending more than €300 million on a technology that is being rapidly outdated. Invariably they have refused. I now read that the Dublin City Council has paid €21 million (€15 million more than originally agreed) to their consultant advisers who would seem to recommend the construction of the incinerator facility at Poolbeg.
My colleagues and I would have been willing, in the course of debate, to offer advice free because we believe that incineration is a wanton waste of a great resource. Had the €21 million been spent on well-directed research it is highly likely there would be available now a technology that could provide an equitable solution for the so-called “waste” issue.
The views expressed here reflect what we are learning from work at our Carbolea Centre. That work has been, and is being supported by the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources, Enterprise Ireland, the EPA, and the European Union, and Science Foundation Ireland. Our research has taught us that the so-called organic waste can have enormous value.
It is claimed the energy from the incineration of Dublin’s organic waste will provide about 52 MW of electricity. Up to 80 per cent of that energy will be provided by the plastics (which of course can be profitably recycled) in the materials provided. We have not been informed of the energy value from the incineration of the wet, non-plastic containing incinerator feedstock.
Our studies show that the so-called wastes contain significant amounts (30-50 per cent) of carbohydrates, some of which can be biologically digested. The carbohydrates that resist biological (or enzymatic) transformations, when subjected to second generation biorefining processes, can provide a range of fuels, fuel additives, and platform chemicals for manufacturing industries whose raw materials are now sourced in petroleum and petrochemicals.
In addition, the residual materials, when subjected to pyrolysis technologies, yield syngas, bio-oil, and biochar. The syngas can be used as a source of energy or made into valuable chemical products. The bio-oil can be upgraded to diesel-additive standard, and the biochar enhances plant growth and resists biodegradation in the amended soils.
The appropriate utilisation of Dublin city waste could lead to significant employment opportunities. It should not be necessary for Dublin residents to pay for the “disposal” of their so-called waste. Instead it should be possible to pay a gate fee for the feedstock.
Thus, the incinerator will become a white elephant. The operators will not worry, because they are guaranteed not to lose money in the operation. Again, I invite DCC members to open debate on this. We will not charge for the advice we will give that can be of benefit to Dublin residents, and to those in any urban area for which incineration is being considered.
Dr MICHAEL HB HAYES
MRIA, Research Professor,
University of Limerick.