MLAs Advised Lack of Waste Infrastructure Hampering Fight Against Climate Change

07 October 2021

MLAs Advised Lack of Waste Infrastructure Hampering Fight Against Climate Change
Tim Walker, arc21’s acting Chief Executive, recently attended Northern Ireland’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to give evidence on the Climate Change Bill.
Mr Walker was appearing on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Waste Management in NI (CIWM) to stress that dealing with waste was essential to tackling climate change.
Mr Walker highlighted the lack of a specific reference to waste within the text of the Bill and how the lack of investment in waste infrastructure in Northern Ireland was contributing to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the form of methane.
Lack of Investment
Addressing the lack of a specific reference of waste within Bill, Mr Walker expressed his concern as waste has a significant environmental impact:
“…there is no specific reference to waste. That is slightly anomalous given that we do not believe that you will be able to address climate change without tackling the economic cycles of production and consumption that ultimately link into waste production.”
This was particularly true given that methane, a GHG produced from landfilled waste, is “in the order of 80 to 85 times more impactful over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide.”
Commenting on the lack of investment in waste infrastructure and its value in the fight against the climate crisis, Mr Walker said:
“In Northern Ireland, we have a lack of infrastructure. There is a risk, ultimately, that Northern Ireland falls further behind other countries in that the lack of infrastructure means that we are increasingly reliant on others overseas to handle our wastes or recyclates for reprocessing.”
Missed Opportunities
Mr Walker also advised the Committee that the lack of investment meant that Northern Ireland was missing the opportunity to use waste as a resource to grow the Circular Economy.
Speaking on behalf of the local waste sector he said: “there is no way you’ll be able to address climate change unless you start with changing the actual economic models of production; by developing the circular economy.
“We’ve seen a vast lack of investment in the sector and in infrastructure, in critical areas across the UK – there’s a lack of recycling technology, there’s a lack of recovery technology, there’s a lack of advanced manufacturing technology – and that is no truer than in Northern Ireland, where there’s been a historic lack of investment.
“That means, here in Northern Ireland, we are less resilient. We have been left behind in terms of self-sufficiency reliant on overseas markets to deal with these materials; we’re missing an opportunity to valorize our waste to create jobs to create employment; to contribute to the economy in a way that is more robust and more meaningful.”
Mr Walker pointed out that globally the recycling rate had slipped from 9.1% in 2019 to 8.6% in 2021, but that developing a fully functioning Circular Economy had the potential to reduce GHGs by 39% (Circle Economy – The Circulatory Gap Report).
The evidence session to the Committee can be viewed here from 01:16:00 – 01:53:00. Further information on the Climate Change Bill can be found here.