Arc21: NI waste incinerator body hits back at opposition from 10 MPs

Arc21, the local government waste management body, has hit back at a letter from ten MPs opposing a new new £240m waste incinerator centre near Mallusk.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 9:55 am

Arc21, a waste management body for six NI councils, wants to take waste collected by its councils to the former quarry site near Mallusk.

The controversial development has had a seven-year journey, much of it in the courts. Arc21 says that the incinerator could generate electricity for 30,000 homes.

In May ten MPs wrote to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon opposing the proposal, noting that over 5,000 objections have been lodged, and that most local elected representatives were also against it.

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An artist's impression of the Arc 21's proposed waste centre at Hightown Quarry.
An artist's impression of the Arc 21's proposed waste centre at Hightown Quarry.

The MPs were Órfhlaith Begley, Micky Brady, Colum Eastwood, Stephen Farry, John Finucane, Michelle Gildernew, Claire Hanna, Chris Hazzard, Paul Maskey and Francie Molloy.

They said more emphasis should be placed on reusing waste rather than incinerating it, that NI is already on target to hit Department of Agriculture recycling rates - currently at 55% - and that there is already an incinerator in Belfast Harbour Estate, risking overcapacity of such facilities. But Arc21 has now hit back, saying the planning application has been recommended for approval by professional planners on three occasions, including by an independent Planning Appeals Commission process. 

Tim Walker, acting CEO of arc21 said: “The reality is that we produce far too much rubbish that can’t be recycled, and drastically reducing that will take years to achieve. In the meantime, we need a reliable, affordable solution that deals with our incessant, daily dumping of rubbish.”

If NI can’t develop new means like the rest of Europe to handle rubbish, “where is it going to go?” he asked.

He says NI’s recycling rate has now fallen below 50% and that tonnages sent to landfill have increased. In 2019/20, he added, over 235,000 tonnes of NI council waste was sent to Turkey, Indonesia, Ghana, GB and USA.

But Alliance MP Stephen Farry rejected the comments.

“We urgently need an extensive review of the current waste management structures in Northern Ireland, as outlined in Alliance Green New Deal, including an urgent review of the existing residual waste capacity in landfill and incineration, which are not fully utilised,” he said. “The Alliance Party’s position on these matters remains that we will reject any new waste management infrastructure proposals before such a review is completed.”

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