| 11.5°C Dublin

Waste from virus will be shipped and dealt with abroad

Close

Environment workers disinfect and collect waste from the quarantined area on Truc Bach Street in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Linh Pham/Getty Images

Environment workers disinfect and collect waste from the quarantined area on Truc Bach Street in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Linh Pham/Getty Images

Getty Images

Environment workers disinfect and collect waste from the quarantined area on Truc Bach Street in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Linh Pham/Getty Images

Medical waste from treating coronavirus patients in Ireland will mostly end up being shipped abroad for disposal because of a lack of specialist facilities here.

The amount of hazardous waste produced here increased by almost 20pc in a single year and there are now warnings that the country cannot keep on exporting the problem.

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of medical, industrial, electrical, agricultural and chemical waste are sent overseas each year.

A total of just over half a million tonnes was generated here in 2018, an increase of 90,000 tonnes from 2017. Over 10 years the rise was 60pc.

With continued economic and population growth, a further rise is expected.

But just a quarter of the waste was treated and disposed of in Ireland while the remainder went abroad, mainly to the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Norway.

The rise in hazardous waste was driven mainly by what the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) said was a "large increase" in ash produced from burning household and business waste in the country's two public incinerators.

While incineration deals with the immediate problem of disposing of municipal rubbish, the ash it leaves behind needs further specialist treatment.

Among other hazardous waste generated was left-over pharmaceuticals, used healthcare products, solvents, oils, sludges, lead-acid batteries, non-recyclable electrical and electronic equipment and contaminated soil recovered from the sites of former mines, gas works, dock yards and petrol stations.

Incineration has proved hugely controversial in Ireland but Mary Frances Rochford, EPA programme manager, said the country needed to strive for more self-sufficiency in dealing with hazardous waste and its by-products.

"While it is encouraging to see an increase in the amount of hazardous waste being treated in Ireland, exports of hazardous waste continue to grow," she said.

"The increase of ash from waste incineration, which arose from increased incineration capacity in the country, highlights the need for an end-to-end approach to waste management practices in Ireland and a reduced reliance on waste exports."

Irish Independent


Related Content