“We Need to Stop Burying our Waste and our Heads in the Ground”

Posted By:
Morrow Communications

28th Jan 2022

Latest NI Waste Data Points to Worrying Trends in Light of Climate Change And Circular Economy Targets.

Landfilling of waste increases by nearly 12.7% year on year to date.

The latest Northern Ireland local authority collected (LAC) municipal waste management statistics published by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has shown another significant increase in waste being landfilled year on year in Northern Ireland. This is despite the clear need to dramatically reduce this method of waste treatment if we are to meet agreed circular economy and climate change targets.

The quantity of LAC municipal waste sent to landfill for Q1 and Q2 of this year (2021/22) has increased by 12.7 per cent year on year so far, from 112,654 tonnes between April and September 2020 to 126,948 tonnes between April and September 2021. The latest quarter figures (Q2) also show a quarterly landfill rate of 23.7 per cent, higher than the 21.6 per cent recorded during the same quarter of 2020.

Meanwhile in the latest Q2 comparisons, energy recovery from waste has also dropped year on year by 1.5% to 21.5% (just over a fifth of waste collected) compared to 23% the year before. In the absence of sufficient local energy recovery capacity this means that more waste is being diverted to the least sustainable option in the waste hierarchy, landfill.

According to Indaver, the European integrated waste management company behind plans to invest £240m in modern waste infrastructure to meet the identified needs of six NI councils in the arc21 area, this demonstrates that Northern Ireland is not heading in the right direction towards a circular economy. Circular economy targets include a 10% maximum cap on waste to landfill by 2035.

Speaking about the latest waste data Jackie Keaney, Indaver said; “These latest figures provide further evidence of a number of worrying trends in Northern Ireland waste management.  If we are to meet agreed climate change and circular economy targets, we need to stop burying our waste and our heads in the ground about this issue. It is abundantly clear that we need to deliver critical waste infrastructure here in Northern Ireland to achieve this, rather than continue to landfill our black bin waste or rely on similar facilities abroad. This has been recognised by arc21, the public sector waste management body for six local councils and their 1.1m inhabitants for many years now, but still their plans to manage their black bin waste have been beset by long delays.

“We support and agree with the recently published draft Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland which recognises that ‘Too much of our waste is exported each year to become someone else’s opportunity to recycle into higher-value material, generate energy; or unfortunately in some cases, to become someone else’s disposal problem.’  It also clearly states that ‘we will need to invest in and develop a more coherent, robust and resilient waste management system for the whole of the region.’ While the latest Investment Strategy reiterates the policy objectives of various plans and strategies over many years, these are only empty promises if they are not backed up by action.  Now is the time for that action and to deliver the critical waste infrastructure that Northern Ireland clearly needs…we have no time to waste.”