Thursday 23 November 2017

Former Oscar winner Jeremy Irons: 'Poolbeg incinerator a most enormous step back for Ireland'

Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Former Oscar winner Jeremy Irons has described the controversial €600m Poolbeg incinerator as a “most enormous step back” for Ireland.

The environmentalist and presenter of the multi-awarding-winning documentary “Trashed” described incineration as “a very dangerous way to get rid of trash”.

Mr Irons, who lives in West Cork, told RTE Radio’s Sean O’Rourke that while making the film, he visited a village in France which once had an incinerator close by. Some 26 pc of residents developed cancer, he said.

“Incineration is a very dangerous way to get rid of trash.”

“Even though [incinerators] have filters, they don’t filter something called microflurons - only if they’re working 100pc, which as we know from vaccum cleaners, doesn’t happen.”

“Everything that goes up must come down, so it either comes down on the sea and gets into the ecological system in the sea, or it comes down on the land and is eaten by cattle and we drink those things in our milk.”

The actor, who visited north Vietnam, Lebanon, and Indonesia to film the documentary, said incineration is also not a cheap method of getting rid of waste.

 “It takes 26 times more energy to make plastic than the energy you get out of it by burning it. So we’re throwing energy away, we’re not getting cheap energy.”

“It’s a fallacious argument put to us by companies who have a vested interest in these enormous government subsidies to build incinerators. They’re very, very expensive.”

“They have a life of about 20 years, and in order to be economically viable they have to be crammed full to keep the temperature really high in order that everything be combusted as well as possible.”

“In order to do that, you have to burn material which you could recycle, which you could reuse. In many cases, because there are too many incinerators in Europe, there are more than the market demands.”

“For Ringsend, we will have to import rubbish to burn, to put out pollutants in the atmosphere, to fall upon our lands or on our seas to affect our children.”

Mr Irons will take part in a discussion following a free screening of "Trashed" at University College Cork today from 2.15pm until 4.30pm.

“[The film] has won about 15 awards at film festivals, and it’s been shown on TV in Italy, Argentina and Indonesia... Maybe one of these days it’ll be shown on cinema in Ireland.”

The Poolbeg incinerator has been dogged with controversy since its inception and has seen its costs hit roughly €100m to date including a total spend of €52m on the project site, which was last estimated to be worth just over €6m.

Work recently began on the €600m incinerator after years of delays and despite Dublin City councillors voting against the project.

The facility will have the capacity to burn 600,000 tonnes of waste a year. It is expected to start operations in the second half of 2017.

The Poolbeg incinerator plant was first proposed in 1997 but has faced numerous legal and political delays, including an unsuccessful complaint made to the European Commission that the project was in breach of State aid rules.

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