Answers to some of your questions.

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  • Residual Waste
  • MBT has not given rise to any perceived health impacts. Thanks to new technology, EfW shouldn't be confused with older generation incinerators. The standards which EfWs now comply with are much stricter than those which applied to old-style incinerators.

    There are over 400 EfWs operating safely across Europe. Any arc21 facility will use proven technology and will be strictly regulated and controlled by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

    Extensive research, including that by the Health Protection Agency, has found no credible evidence of adverse health implications for people living or working close to the EfW facilities.

    The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has assessed the potential impact of dioxins from the incineration of waste on food produced. Its report states that:

    "FSAI considers that such incineration facilities, if properly managed, will not contribute to dioxin levels in the food supply to any significant extent and will not affect food quality or safety. The risks to health and sustainable development presented by the continued dependency on landfill as a method of waste disposal far outweigh any possible effects on food safety and quality."

    In December 2008, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency stated that a proposed new facility in Dublin "will not endanger human health or harm the environment in the vicinity of the facility or over a wider area".

    The majority of safety incidents which occur in the waste industry relate to the manual handling and sorting of waste, particularly during collection. EfW facilities are highly automated with no manual handling. Accordingly, the safety record for these types of plants is very good, with greater risk associated with collection, sorting and transport activities.

    EfW and MBT plants are safe for those who live and work close by, as well as those who work in the facilities.

     A Health Impact Assessment, specifically for and dedicated to the project, was undertaken. This assessment was included as part of the documentation in the planning application.


    The EU Landfill Directive requires a phased reduction in the amount of biodegradable municipal waste which is sent to landfill.

    If we don’t meet these targets, councils will face fines and increased costs, including landfill tax, which could lead to households paying hundreds of pounds more on their annual rates bill in a worst case scenario.

    While we’re making good progress in improving the levels of recycling and reducing the amount of waste at source, this will not completely solve the problem. As there is a practical limit to the amount of waste that can be recycled, other means of treatment will be required to minimise the amount of waste being sent to landfill.

    There are are also other obligations including the application of the waste hierarchy.

    It is important that we view and utilise waste as a resource. The Government’s policy document, entitled Delivering Resource Efficiency published at the end of October advocates an integrated approach to waste management. 

    In supporting efficient energy recovery, the Department of the Environment acknowledges that technology solutions include mechanical biological treatment (MBT) of waste which can produce a fuel (sometimes referred to as refuse dervived fuel (RDF)) which may provide energy from waste through subsequent thermal treatment, for example in a cement kiln, incinerator or gasifier.

    on 4 July the EU's Circular Economy Package became law. The UK Government despite its impending departure from the EU will work towards the targets contained therein. As well as various recycling targets, it includes limiting the landfill of municipal waste to 10% by 2035.

    Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) isn't a single technology. It is a family of processes using many different elements in numerous combinations.

    MBT partially processes mixed waste by mechanically removing some parts of the waste and biologically treating others, so that the treated fraction is smaller,  more biologically stable and enhancing it's combustion properties.

    This fraction can be sent to landfill, used in land remediation or alternatively used as a derived fuel for an EfW facility, as in our proposal.


    Energy from Waste (EfW) is a proven renewable energy technology that recovers energy from waste. It is generally acknowledged that three technologies are principally used for mixed municipal waste; direct combustion, pyrolysis and gasification.

    Direct combustion is the most commonly used of these in Europe and throughout the world.

    It works by burning waste that cannot be recycled. The combustion process produces high-pressure steam that is converted to electrical power using a turbine and generator. This electricity can be fed into the national grid or supplied to the local community.

    They can also produce high-pressure hot water or steam that can be used by industry or domestic heating. These plants are highly efficient and are encouraged by Government policy.

    These facilities will be delivered in partnership with the private sector. arc21’s Residual Waste Project is one of the largest public procurement exercises conducted in Northern Ireland’s history and is valued at £1bn over the lifetime of the project.

    We commenced the procurement process in September 2008 with the formal publication of the OJEU Notice. The procurement process adopted is known as the “competitive dialogue” process and is relatively complex with various phases. The next phase in the procurement process will be to issue a formal Invitation to Submit a Final Tender. However the timing of this will be largely dependent on progress with the various regulatory permissions. The time taken to obtain the relevant regulatory permissions, including planning, will also have a major influence in determining when the actual facilities will be built and become operational.  

    If awarded, it is possible that the management of  residual waste through this contract may commence using interim arrangements whilst the permanent facilities are being developed.

    The use of MBT and EfW as part of an integrated solution to our waste problem has been the subject of public consultation on six occasions over the last fourteen years through the NI Waste Strategy 1999 , 2006 & 2013 and arc21’s Waste Management Plan in 2002, 2006 and 2014.

    arc21 conducted a land assembly process to identify a number of potential sites which were made available for an EfW facility and up to two MBT facilities in the arc21 region.

    As part of that exercise, we've asked all of our constituent councils, Central Government and the private sector to examine if they had any suitable sites to put forward for consideration. The consortia bidding to build the facilities may also bring forward site options as part of their detailed submission for evaluation.  

    The actual location and comprehensive details on the proposed facilities was the subject of a major public consultation exercise beginning on the 12 March 2013 and lasted 12 weeks. The response from this consultation was considered and was of assistance in informing the subsequent planning application.

    The public were consulted prior to and during the planning application process on the proposals.

    The Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) held an inquiry into the merits of the proposals in October 2016. The inquiry process including the hearing enabled anyone including objectors to make representation to the PAC on the proposals.

    Establishing the infrastructure here is fully compatible with the overarching strategic framework at all tiers i.e. European, UK, Northern Ireland and sub-regional level.

    In particular, reference should be made to The European Waste Framework Directive (revised in 2008), The UK National Infrastructure Plan 2011, Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy, Northern Ireland Best Practicable Environmental Option and the arc21 Waste Management Plan.

    The provision of this infrastructure is wholly consistent with the proximty principle and the principle of self sufficiency which are principles contained in the European Waste Framework. 

    It is also worth noting that following recent cases of illeglal waste disposal highlighted in the media, the Minister of the Environment commissioned Mr Chris Mills to conduct an independant study into the situation. Mr Mills produced his report in December 2013 and 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.

    There are a number of benefits which locating the facility here will bring and these are:

    • Provide a high degree of local control at the facilities;
    • Offer protection against wider market forces which may affect facilities located abroad;
    • Reduce risks associated with haulage and transport overseas;
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from haulage and transport overseas;
    • Increase revenue to local council(s) through rates;
    • Provide a public sector owned asset;
    • Integration with other policy objectives e.g. diverse energy supply, security of energy production and meeting renewable energy targets;
    • Create employment opportunities both during the construction and throughout the operation of the facilities;
    • Act as a catalyst for economic development;
    • Help to ensure that waste can be monitored more closely and be more tightly regulated with a view to preventing waste getting into the hands of criminals.

    EfW is the internationally accepted term to describe what arc21 wishes to see built.

    As detailed in the earlier quesion, 'What is Energy from Waste', EfW works by burning waste which can't practically be recycled, converting it into renewable heat and energy.

    EfW's shouldn't, however, be confused with old-style incinerators such as those built during the 1980s.

    Technology has improved dramatically over the last two decades and EfW is now an integral part of waste management strategies throughout Europe.

    In Sheffield, for example, an EfW facility located within the City Centre (pictured above) generates enough energy to supply 22,000 homes and 60 megawatts of heat which is supplied to 140 buildings including Sheffield City Hall, an International Sports Centre and the Sheffield Theatres.

    Compared to coal or oil-fired power stations, EfWs emit less fossil CO2. EfW facilities actually help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste away from landfill (decomposing waste produces large amounts of the greenhouse gas, methane, which is 20 times more damaging to the environment than CO2).

    A number of detailed studies, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) 2007 report, ‘Mitigation on Climate change’, have concluded that EfWs have an overall positive effect on climate protection.

    The report states "incineration and industrial co-combustion for waste-to-energy provides significant renewable energy benefits and fossil fuel offsets".

    In Sheffield, its estimated that the low carbon energy produced by its EfW facility prevents 12,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released across the city each year.

    The annual level of fossil CO2 created from a typical EfW facility is equivalent to that produced from an 11km stretch of motorway. On average the treatment of one ton of municipal waste in an EfW facility results in a carbon saving of at least 232kg (CO2 equivalent).

    Evidence from Europe, where EfW has been in operation for many years, demonstrates that high levels of recycling are consistent with EfWs.

    In implementing our waste management strategy, arc21 has deliberately introduced EfW at a later stage to ensure that it would not inhibit the development of a stronger recycling culture.

    Recycling rates throughout arc21 have increased every year since we published our Waste Management Plan - up from just 7.5% in 1999 to over 48% today.

    Our target is to increase recycling and composting rates to at least 50% - a level which is not incompatible with operating an EfW facility. For example, the Swiss recycle 50% and send 50% to EfW while the Swedish figures are 48% and 47% respectively.

    The energy will be in the form of electricity and possibly heat.

    It can be used to provide electricity for up to 30,000 homes, equivalent to the size of former Down District Council area.

    EfW, as well as helping meet statutory waste targets, will also contribute towards addressing Northern Ireland’s energy deficit, help slow the depletion of fossil fuel sources and improve the security of our energy supply for the future.

    Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities are required to comply with strict emission limits laid down by the European Waste Incineration Directive. Its objective is to minimise the impact from emissions on the environment and human health. It sets the most stringent emissions controls for any thermal process regulated in the European Union.

    The proposed facility will not emit smoke, with any plume being colourless steam. There are examples of facilities in major Dutch cities where the standard of the emissions are cleaner than the air breathed at ground level.

    The average coal-fired power station will annually emit over 100 times more sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides compared to a typical EfW facility. The air quality for people living and working around a site will not suffer as a result of an EfW plant.

    Dioxins, which are a family of chemicals present in the environment, are a natural by-product of the combustion process. A typical EfW facility will take over four years to produce a teaspoon of dioxin in air emissions and it would take a modern plant 100 years to produce more dioxins than emitted during the 15-minute firework display held to celebrate the Millenium in London.

    A French study in 2003 reported that dioxin concentrations in the vicinity of a barbecue reached a level six times higher than that authorised for an EfW facility at the point of discharge.

    The plant will use a ‘CEMS’ (Continuous Emission Monitoring) system to constantly check emissions. CEMS will always be on. If, for some reason, it is not working, the EfW facility will not be allowed to operate.

    Incinerator Bottom Ash (sometimes called clinker) has been classified as non-hazardous by the regulatory bodies and, after processing, is safe to be used by the construction industry as an aggregate replacement.

    Air Pollution Control Residues, including fly ash, are collected from the flue gas cleaning process and sent to special waste landfill as they are classified as hazardous.

    Presently there are no suitable arrangements available in the UK to recycle fly ash, although this may change in the foreseeable future.

    No. A number of measures including design features will be incorporated into the development and operation of the facilities to remove any risk of nuisance occurring such as odour, flies and noise.

    The proposed EfW facility will not burn raw household waste. The waste will have been pre-treated elsewhere at a MBT plant before being delivered to the EfW.

    The EfW facility will be constructed to handle waste entirely within an enclosed building with the waste only stored for a very short period of time before processing.

    The building will be subject to negative pressure, which means that any odours or flies will be kept inside.

    Sophisticated odour control technology will also be employed before emissions are dispersed.

    Where appropriate, noise suppression techniques will be applied to individual pieces of plant such as condenser units and fans.

    arc21 conducted a land assembly exercise as part of the process to deliver new waste facilities for the region.

    The aim was to identify possible sites for MBT facilities, and for an EfW facility.

    We consulted with Councils, Government and the private sector, inviting them to make sites available for potential use in the project.

    Once all the offers of sites had been received, they were considered for suitablility. This includes an assessment against criteria previously consulted upon during 2007. A list of suitable sites was made available to the remaining consortia bidding to develop the new facilities. They are not be obliged to utilise any of the listed sites as they have the option of proposing alternative sites under their control, as part of their detailed submissions for evaluation.  

    The remaining consortia launched the project name  on Tuesday 12 th March 2013 - Becon. They also provided definitive information on the proposed site at Hightown Quarry, Boghill Rioad near Mallusk  that same day. Further information can be obtained by visiting the Becon website - www.becon.co.uk