More energy from waste infrastructure required

Becon-Project-Overview--as-of-March-2014New European waste management proposals suggest Northern Ireland will require 2-3 times more thermal waste treatment capacity.

According to recent analysis from the then Department of Environment’s (DOE) Environmental Policy Division, the recent EU Commission Communication on the Circular Economy has “signalled a significant shift in the future direction of travel for waste management” and “will have a major impact on our waste management infrastructure requirements” in Northern Ireland. They suggest that with more stringent limitations being proposed on the amount of waste permitted to landfill, alongside more ambitious recycling targets, this will now require Northern Ireland to have 2-3 times more thermal waste treatment (energy from waste) capacity than previously assessed.

The Becon Consortium, the private sector organisation who are the final bidder in the tender process for the £240 million integrated waste management facility at Hightown Quarry, Mallusk, believes this latest assessment confirms the need for the arc21 project as part of Northern Ireland’s overall waste management solution. The proposed facility is designed to help arc21, the umbrella waste management group for six councils in the east of Northern Ireland, meet landfill diversion and recycling targets, while also maximising the value from non-recyclable waste.

The project, designed to deal with municipal black bin waste is, they say a vital part of the solution to meet that growing thermal waste treatment need. The facility will process approximately 250,000 tonnes of waste annually, initially recovering recyclable material through the mechanical and biological treatment plant and then generating renewable electricity in the adjoining energy from waste plant – enough to power over 30,000 homes. They argue that it will provide the type of proven and reliable infrastructure that Northern Ireland needs to manage its waste more sustainably, add to Northern Ireland’s energy security and help meet its European obligations.

Speaking about the latest developments John Ahern from the Becon Consortium said: “These new assessments paint a very clear picture of the need for Northern Ireland to catch up with the rest of Europe and to put in place the necessary infrastructure to manage our waste more sustainably and maximise its value through material and energy recovery. It is simply not sustainable to continue sending this waste to energy from waste plants elsewhere in Europe.

“The Department’s own analysis of the Circular Economy Package published by the EU Commission signals a significant shift in direction and confirms an even greater need for thermal waste treatment facilities here in Northern Ireland. Proposals to increase recycling rates from the current 50 per cent by 2020 to 65 per cent by 2030 coupled with a reduction in the permitted waste to landfill, down from 35 per cent by 2020 to 10 per cent by 2030 will have a major impact on waste infrastructure requirements in Northern Ireland. They suggest that following a rough assessment of these proposals, this would require around 2-3 times the current assessed thermal waste treatment needs – from between 200,000 tonnes to 305,000 tonnes, to around 668,000-759,000 tonnes per year.”

The new assessment was published as part of the recent planning approval for increased waste throughput for the Bombardier/Full Circle Generation Energy from Waste facility in East Belfast.

Welcoming clarity around the future direction of travel, Ahern added: “The Becon Consortium believes that the recent planning approval for the increased waste throughput for the Bombardier facility is evidence that the department recognises the need for increased thermal treatment capacity in Northern Ireland and is a recognition of the game changing nature of the new European proposals.

“The arc21 project and the Full Circle Generation facility will both be required to meet the new thermal treatment capacity requirement as identified by the department. Together they have the potential to deliver resource efficiency by transforming waste into high quality materials and renewable energy.”

Details about the project can be found on


In September 2015 the then Minister for the Environment issued a notice of opinion to refuse planning at the Hightown site, ignoring the advice of his planning advisors. Arc21 subsequently requested an appeal hearing with the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) which is currently scheduled for October 2016. On completion, the Commissioner’s report and recommendation will go to the Department for Infrastructure for a decision by the new Minister. It remains to be seen how the final planning decision reflects the department’s latest assessment of the need for far greater thermal waste capacity in Northern Ireland.


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