Anti-incineration group outlines vision for future - Derry can become the first ‘zero waste city’ in Ireland

People attending a recent Zero Waste North West public meeting in the City Hotel. (DER3813PG040)
People attending a recent Zero Waste North West public meeting in the City Hotel. (DER3813PG040)
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‘Our vision is to see Derry become the first zero waste city in Ireland’ - that’s the view of a local lobby group opposed to plans to locate a gasification recycling plant on the outskirts of Derry.

‘Our vision is to see Derry become the first zero waste city in Ireland’ - that’s the view of a local lobby group opposed to plans to locate a gasification recycling plant on the outskirts of Derry.

Zero Waste North West (ZWNW) - which recently hosted an anti-incinerator meeting in the city - says protecting the environment and people’s health are among its key priorities.

Planning permission for the plant at Maydown - branded a “super incinerator” by its opponents - has already been granted.

However, in April, the Department of the Environment ordered an internal investigation into why the public was not informed of the planning approval.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, who attended last week’s meeting at the City Hotel, says he went to the event to “listen and to take away people’s views.”

“The plant has planning permission and will, ultimately, require permitting permission and that means it will come to my desk,” he said.

Gasification plants operate by heating waste to produce a gas that is used to generate steam.

ZWNW says it is opposed to all forms of thermal waste treatment and argues that, under EU directives, gasification is classed as incineration.

Zero waste, says the group, is the only sustainable way forward.

“We feel that, if built, this will undermine recycling and set us back 25 years at least in this regard. Derry could become the nation’s dumping ground,” a spokesperson said.

According to ZWNW, it’s not only Derry City Council which is planning to use the plant but six other local authorities.

“This is a monster that needs to be fed,” added the spokesperson, “demanding 80 tonnes of mixed residual waste per year. Private companies will gain but us and our environment will lose out.”

According to the group, Derry City Council has the lowest rate of recycling and diversion from landfill in the North.

This compares to the highest - Banbridge with 61.1% - and a total recycling rate, for Northern Ireland as a whole, of 43%.

The group claims that Derry City Council’s recycling rate has fallen by 5.7% since 2008.

During the same period, it claims, all other councils across the North increased their recycling rate by an average of 10%.

“We have found from engaging with the public that people are keen to recycle and that Derry City Council needs to be more active in raising public awareness on how to do it properly and what actually can be recycled,” added the ZWNW spokesperson.

“Zero Waste North West is about changing the way we manage resources.

“It means using natural resources in the most effective way, as many times as possible, while minimising impact on the environment.”

The ZWNW spokesperson said an increasing number of cities and regions across Europe and North America are adopting a zero waste attitude, and Derry should follow suit.