We're exporting rubbish worth millions every year
Published 14/07/2015 | 02:30
Ireland is exporting millions of euros worth of waste every year due to a lack of treatment facilities.
And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the Government should introduce an export levy on certain waste streams to encourage recycling rates and fuel job creation.
More than 300,000 tonnes of waste is exported every year to countries including the US and Mexico, Bangladesh, China, Egypt and Indonesia.
Among the exported wastes are paper, glass, food and drink cans, textiles and plastics, with some types of waste commanding prices in excess of €500 per tonne.
Waste destined for landfills here is also used to fuel incinerators in other countries, which represents a lost opportunity, according to the EPA. This is because the waste is used to generate heat and electricity.
"What's happening at the moment is that waste to energy incineration plants in Europe have spare capacity and they're placing it on the market at very attractive prices," EPA spokesman Dr Jonathan Derham said.
"Because landfilling is so expensive here, and we don't have full waste to energy facilities, the material is exported for recovery and another member state benefits from the energy.
"The state could put an export levy on certain waste streams to encourage recovery to encourage job creation."
The exported materials are sold as commodities on the international market, with huge demand for glass, metals, paper and plastics.
The materials, called recyclates, are reprocessed and re-used. While Ireland does not have the population needed to sustain some facilities, including paper mills, more processing could be completed here prior to shipment, creating jobs.
The EPA also said that some 'black' bin waste is being reprocessed for use as a fuel in cement kilns, and that over time, ash from incineration plants would be used to produce concrete.