29 June 2020 by James Langley

arc21 waste project ‘essential’ to NI, consultancy says

The proposed arc21 residual waste project has been described by a business consultancy as “essential” at a time when Northern Ireland faces “significant challenges” in managing its waste.

American-owned Grant Thorton, by whom a report on the project was published today (29 June), said arc21 had a “strategic imperative” with local government finances under pressure, reduced ability to landfill waste and a worsening economic situation.

An artist’s impression of the proposed arc21 facility

Grant Thornton’s report was commissioned by Indaver, the private sector investor hoping to build the Becon project for arc21.

The umbrella waste management group for six local authorities in the east of Northern Ireland, arc21 hopes to build a £240 million energy from waste (EfW) facility in Mallusk, north Belfast.

Andrew Webb, Grant Thornton’s chief economist, said: “The current approach of both landfilling and exporting our waste for the value to be extracted elsewhere is not a legitimate or sustainable long-term solution.

“The new Circular Economy targets mean that we need to develop a local self-sufficient solution which maximises the value from our waste.

“The arc21 residual waste project offers a compelling solution”

Andrew Webb, Grant Thornton’s chief economist

“The arc21 residual waste project offers a compelling solution which is in line with modern international best practice for environmental protection and climate change mitigation.”

The Becon Consortium, the developer behind the project, has urged the DAERA Minister and the Executive to back the project as it awaits a planning determination.

In January the developer expressed hope the reopening of the Northern Irish assembly three years after it collapsed and the subsequent appointment of Edwin Poots as minister at DAERA would accelerate the process (see letsrecycle.com story).

Costs

Grant Thornton estimates exporting household waste to other parts of Europe to fuel EfW facilities costs Northern Irish councils more than £16 million per year. This is based on an average of 138,183 tonnes of waste exported annually during the past three years.

And, Grant Thornton estimates that sending a significant proportion of residual waste to landfill costs Northern Irish councils more than £30 million. In 2018/19, 281,226 tonnes of council collected waste was landfilled, the business consultancy says.

EU Circular Economy Package (CEP) targets are to be adopted into UK law, placing a cap of 10% on the landfilling of municipal waste by 2035. Grant Thornton estimates Northern Ireland therefore needs to find a sustainable solution for between 25% and 50% of its household waste.

Economic imperatives

Grant Thornton estimates the proposed £240 million inward investment would support around 340 permanent direct and indirect jobs when the plants are operational and create or sustain 2,701 direct job years of employment.

John Ahern, business development executive for Indaver UK and Ireland

John Ahern is business development director for Indaver UK and Ireland. He said: “The environmental and economic imperatives for this project combine to make it a must do, otherwise Northern Ireland risks failing to meet its key targets on landfill diversion, recycling, renewable energy, and wider climate change targets.

“The Becon project delivers a 21st century solution to manage Northern Irish residual waste in a responsible manner in line with the best practice across Europe.

“It ensures we maximise the value from that waste and contribute to critical climate change targets.”

Unlawful

The development was first proposed in March 2013 (see letsrecycle.com story), but has faced a string of planning delays, including having its previous approval deemed unlawful by a High Court judge in 2018.

Mrs Justice Keegan backed claims a senior civil servant did not have legal power to give the green light for the major waste disposal facility at Hightown Quarry in Mallusk following the collapse of the Assembly (see letsrecycle.com story).

According to the Becon website, the plant is currently awaiting approval from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and they say it will be fully operational within four years of securing all necessary consent.

The proposed facility consists of a mechanical biological treatment building, a 220,000 tonnes per annum EfW plant and a visitor centre.

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