Mallusk incinerator company urges ministers to ‘prioritise’ planning decision

An updated market report from waste and bioenergy advisors supports the case for an incinerator at Mallusk, the company behind the controversial proposal claims.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 7:53 pm

Details of the Tolvik Consultancy report were shared yesterday (Thursday) by Indaver, which is leading the £240m Becon project for arc21.

Made up of six constituent local authorities in Northern Ireland, arc21 is behind proposals for a residual waste treatment facility in the Boghill Road area. It is designed to deal with waste from a significant portion of the population and includes Mechanical and Biological Treatment, Energy from Waste Thermal Treatment and Incinerator Bottom Ash Treatment facilities.

Using the latest local authority data for 2020 - and which covers the lockdown period - the Tovik analysis has concluded that even if the arc21 project is delivered as planned there will still be a residual waste treatment capacity ‘gap’ in Northern Ireland of 124,000 tonnes in 2035. The projections of waste arisings consider projected household changes, anticipated recycling increases and both Brexit and covid implications.

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A computer generated image of the proposed incinerator in Mallusk.

The report projects that by 2035 when Northern Ireland must achieve the Circular Economy Municipal Waste recycling target of 65%, the province will still produce over 500,000 tonnes of residual waste annually that cannot be recycled and will therefore require alternative treatment.

Commenting on the report findings, John Ahern, Indaver said: “The analysis by Tolvik confirms the need for a step change in how we currently manage our waste if we are to avoid a waste crisis, meet the Circular Economy targets and move away from relying on landfilling and exporting our waste. This has major implications for NI’s ability to meet the wider net zero carbon targets by 2050, given the damaging impact of methane release from landfill.

“This step change will require local, strategic waste infrastructure such as the proposed arc21 project which will divert waste from landfill and negate the need to export huge volumes of our residual waste, only to fuel energy from waste plants abroad.

“It is critical that Northern Ireland develops a fully integrated waste management system here which brings all the existing waste management providers together in a joined-up way.

“This report confirms that we have more than enough local waste capacity for the £240m Becon project and that it is clearly a must do project for Northern Ireland.

“The project will provide significant economic and environmental benefits, give local councils much needed surety when it comes to their waste management costs at this uncertain time, and deliver a publicly owned asset for the longer term. The recent Ministerial Advisory Panel on Infrastructure highlighted the important role of such strategic infrastructure in supporting a ‘cleaner, greener recovery’.

“We would therefore urge the relevant ministers to prioritise the long-awaited planning decision needed to progress these vital facilities.”

Indaver went on to point out the Tolvik Consulting Market Analysis report has been submitted as part of a Further Environmental Information (FEI) submission to update the planning application and address queries and objections raised since last year. The application, the company noted, has been in the planning system for over seven years and in that time, it has been recommended for approval three times by different planning professionals including by an independent Planning Appeals Commission review.

After the collapse of the Assembly, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) announced in September 2017 that full planning permission had been granted for the waste disposal facility at the site. However, the Court of Appeal subsequently ruled that Stormont officials did not have the legal authority to grant such permission.

Campaigners, led by community group NoARC21, which was established to oppose the plans, vowed to continue their opposition after revised documents were submitted to the department in 2019.

Concluding a debate on the project at Stormont last month, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon assured members “that my officials continue to process the application at pace and in line with the planning policy to a point where a recommendation can be made for my consideration”. Click here to read more

NoARC21 said this week’s statement from Indaver was “the latest attempt by arc21 to seek to justify the need for a 300,000 tonne waste monster in close proximity to thousands of homes in the Mallusk area”.

Group chair Colin Buick added: “While arc21 only have authority in six council areas, this report clearly shows that the intention is to transport waste from across the whole of Northern Ireland to feed this waste monster. This is not only totally outside the remit of arc21 but essentially means that ratepayers from the six arc21 councils will be subsidising waste management for the rest of the councils in Northern Ireland.”

“One of the central pillars of a circular economy is feeding materials back into the economy and avoiding waste being sent to landfill or incinerated, thereby capturing the value of the materials as far as possible and reducing losses.”

He went to “again urge the Minister for Infrastructure to complete her assessment as quickly as possible and refuse permission for this controversial planning application which now has over 5,250 objections”.

The updated market report can be found on http://becon.co.uk/admin/resources/appendix-2.1-northern-ireland-residual-waste-market-update.pdf