Poolbeg reversal to generate 600 jobs
But waste U-turn sparks fears of higher charges
UP to 600 new jobs will be created when the Government today reverses attempts by former Environment Minister John Gormley to scupper the €350m Poolbeg Incinerator.
New minister Phil Hogan will bin proposals by his predecessor to slap huge levies on the Poolbeg facility, the Irish Independent has learned.
Making incineration an attractive alternative to landfill clears the way for work on the Dublin incinerator to begin shortly. It will involve at least 500 construction jobs and the creation of up to 100 permanent jobs at the facility when it is up and running in three years' time.
The dramatic U-turn in waste policy is part of a series of radical new plans unveiled by Mr Hogan today.
They include higher landfill charges and single-company waste routes based on tendering.
Local authorities will choose just one company to pick up household rubbish in designated areas.
The move means an end to shopping around for the best price available.
However, the changes could lead to higher bin charges for householders if the companies pass on the increased costs to their customers.
Government sources dismissed these fears and insisted the new system would be more cost-efficient for the companies, and would bring Ireland into line with best European practice.
Landfill levies will rise by as much as 50pc per tonne, the Irish Independent has learned.
The aim is to dramatically cut the amount of rubbish currently being dumped in landfills, which are rapidly reaching capacity. The Irish Independent has also learned that the minister will move to end the current system whereby numerous bin companies collect in the same housing estate or area.
In future, they will have to compete for an exclusive tender to service an area.
"We cannot keep putting our rubbish into big holes in the ground," a source said.
"We need to bring clarity to the waste market. And we have to comply with strict EU directives in relation to landfilling waste."
Incineration is viewed elsewhere in Europe as environmentally friendly, as it generates electricity from the residual waste. Landfills in Co Dublin are currently operating at capacity level and Ireland has to cut its one million tonnes of rubbish going to landfill in half in just four years or face massive EU fines.
The capital's rubbish is now being sent to landfill sites around the country at an extra cost of €20m to taxpayers.
Dublin City Council is being forced to send all of its rubbish to dumps in counties Cavan, Kildare, Limerick, Galway, Offaly, Wicklow, Carlow, Louth, Monaghan and Meath.
The hold-up in building the incinerator at Poolbeg had been blamed for the landfill crisis.
First proposed in 2001, the waste-to-energy plant is designed to encourage higher recycling rates and composting to dispose of rubbish.
It has planning permission from An Bord Pleanala, as well as a waste licence from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mr Gormley claimed it was too big for the amount of waste expected to be generated in the Dublin region.
However, this was disputed by the council, prospective incinerator operator Covanta and in ESRI waste reports setting out projections for the next decade.