State-of- the- Art Waste Facilities Designed to Boost Recycling and Produce Energy
arc21, the umbrella waste body for 11 Councils in the East of Northern Ireland, has submitted a planning application for new waste management infrastructure which will enable its constituent Councils to meet European landfill diversion targets and manage their waste more sustainably. It comes after a period of extensive community consultation and pre-application discussions with statutory consultees between March and November 2013 as well as the recent considerations by all eleven constituent councils.
Representing an inward investment of £240m into Northern Ireland, the proposals, if approved, will see the Becon Consortium deliver a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facility alongside an Energy from Waste (EfW) plant. These will be co-located in the existing Hightown Quarry on the Boghill Road, near Mallusk. This type of waste infrastructure is commonly used across Europe and could establish itself as an integral part of Northern Ireland’s agreed waste management strategy. The project will complement existing and future waste reduction, reuse and recycling programmes to maximise recycling levels and create a sustainable energy source from the remaining residual black bin waste which cannot be practically recycled.
An independent economic assessment by Oxford Economics estimates the project will create or sustain approximately 340 permanent direct and indirect jobs when operational – contributing over £24m Gross Value Added (GVA) to the Northern Ireland economy per annum. It will also create up to 455 direct construction jobs and support a significant number of additional jobs in the construction supply chain, generating an estimated £215m GVA in the process. The project will also include a Visitor Centre which will showcase best practice in waste management and sustainability as well as potentially acting as a resource for use by the local community.
Ricky Burnett, Policy and Operations Director, arc21 said; “This project represents the latest stage in our strategy to view our waste as a resource and builds on the good progress we have made over the last decade. While we will continue to pursue challenging recycling targets, there will always be residual waste remaining, which we must stop sending to landfill. There is an economic and environmental imperative to do so, to meet European landfill diversion targets, possible landfill bans and to avoid potentially heavy fines.
The project contains a mix of technologies and facilities which will both increase recycling levels and divert residual waste from landfill. We are confident that the chosen site is well located for a development of this nature and that various relevant impact assessments confirm that to be the case. This project will help maximise the value from waste by significantly reducing our dependency on landfill and improving the security and diversity of energy production in Northern Ireland.
Finally, many people will be very aware of the recent publicity concerning illegal waste disposal. A independent study into such activities had been commissioned by the then Minister of the Environment, Alex Attwood. This study was conducted by Mr. Christopher Mills and his report was published in December 2013. In his report he made it very clear that the availability of new strategic infrastructure could be extremely important in helping to ensure that waste could be monitored more closely and be more tightly regulated. We believe this project is precisely what is envisaged and recommended by Mr Mills. ”
The Becon Consortium, aims to become a long term partner to develop and manage the facilities on behalf of arc21 pending the completion of a competitive procurement process. The driving force behind the Becon Consortium is the EEW Energy from Waste group (EEW) which develops, builds and operates EfW plants and has a proven track record of integrity, reliability and environmental performance. EEW currently owns/operates 19 EfW facilities, including plants in Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Speaking about the project, Ian Smith, Project Director, Becon Consortium said; “We are very excited about this project and are delighted to have reached this important stage. Following a lot of work and community and stakeholder consultation, we believe we are proposing the best available technology solution in the most suitable location to manage arc21’s waste in a more environmentally responsible and sustainable way. If our application is successful, this project will help NI catch up with the rest of Europe and ensure we maximise the value from our waste, while addressing the European imperative to divert our waste from landfill. Importantly it will also contribute significantly to separate renewable and sustainable energy targets.”
The proposed facilities will help arc21’s 11 Councils to not only meet their EU landfill reduction targets, therefore avoiding potential fines, but will also help increase overall recycling levels within the arc21 area by up to 10%. The project will also export 14MW electricity to the National Grid, enough to power more than 30,000 homes, contributing to Northern Ireland’s renewable energy targets, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to using landfill.
Following a careful site selection process, the long established Hightown Quarry was considered the best available location for the new facilities as it is centrally located in the arc21 area, and has good connections to the primary road network and the national electricity grid. Importantly, this active industrial quarry site is of sufficient size and scale to absorb the scheme and lends itself well to visual screening and noise shielding.
As part of the planning application, detailed environmental impact assessments have been carried out on the proposals and have included an independent voluntary Health Impact Assessment, considered to be one of the most extensive ever carried out in Northern Ireland.
It is anticipated that the plants will be constructed and in full operation within four years of securing the necessary planning and permitting consents, and a successful conclusion of arc21’s procurement process.
As well as formally submitting the planning application to the Planning Service, the full documents have been shared on the project website WWW.BECON.CO.UK . A summary document outlining updates since the public consultation phase has also been produced and made available online, to aid those stakeholders who wish to understand the changes resulting from the consultation exercise.