arc21 Responds to Issues Raised in Local Paper

12 April 2021

arc21 Responds to Issues Raised in Local Paper
Responding to issues raised in a local newspaper, the below letter from arc21’s Acting Chief Executive, Tim Walker, was published last week.
The original article raised issues concerning arc21’s proposals to develop modern waste infrastructure at Hightown Quarry, particularly the potential impact on the environment and recycling. In responding, Mr. Walker wrote:
“I would like to draw your attention to some facts about this proposed development which has been designed specifically to deliver the statutory duties of the councils which make up arc21 to increase recycling and deal with the remaining rubbish. Currently, this is landfilled in sites in the Lisburn and Belfast Hills which are filling up fast, or exported for incineration – creating jobs and energy overseas.”
arc21’s proposals include one of the largest recycling facilities in Ireland and the first local Energy from Waste (EfW) plant that can handle a wide range of processed and unprocessed rubbish which can’t be recycled.
Over the past few years the Hightown Quarry proposals, which are in line with what happens to waste elsewhere in Britain and Ireland, have been recommended for approval by three sets of professional planners, including the Planning Appeals Commission.
Regarding the environment, the Environment Minister recently confirmed that landfilling is the primary source of greenhouse gases in the waste sector. In a written answer, the Minister detailed that: “Over 90% of the emissions from waste are in the form of methane, of which 75% comes from the breaking down of waste anaerobically in landfill.”
The UK Committee on Climate Change has also recommended a ban on landfilling biodegradable waste by 2025 and a 10% cap on landfill. arc21’s proposed facilities will divert waste from landfill and – in comparison – reduce greenhouse gas emissions annually by 57,000 tonnes. arc21’s facilities will also help address our over-reliance on exporting waste thousands of miles around the world, a practice which is not environmentally (and unlikely to prove economically) sustainable. 
arc21’s recycling facilities will boost council recycling rates by 5%-10%, recovering recyclable material accidentally placed in black bins, and use the ash from the EfW to make building products for the local construction sector. 
The article also suggested that there would be “open-ended costs” for ratepayers. This is simply not the case. 
Our current solution of relying on international waste markets and a diminishing number of landfill sites exposes ratepayers to increased financial risk and far greater operational uncertainty (not to mention significantly undermining our reputation as a green and pleasant land). It also means that we are not self-sufficient in dealing with our waste and will be left behind in terms of infrastructure and securing new opportunities for Green Growth, such as around new clean fuels.
arc21’s proposals (which allow councils to share revenue generated by the facilities) will be subject to its councils approving a business case should planning permission be secured. If the project does not represent value for money, arc21 will not recommend it. 
Until we make the transition to a zero-waste society, modern waste facilities such as those proposed at Hightown Quarry will play an essential role in properly managing the 15 million black bins’ worth of rubbish we in the arc21 region produce annually.
Tim Walker
Chief Executive (Acting), arc21