“Costs of incinerator should be a burning issue”

The Irish Times published an opinion article entitled “Costs of incinerator should be a burning issue” on August 24th written by Joe McCarthy and Valerie Jennings.

Their text is displayed below

2007, DONG/Elsam withdrew from public/private partnership for incinerator.

2007 Covanta brought in by Dublin City Council

Contract 25 year municipal contract for 320,000 tonnes per annum

DCC refused details of finance on the basis of commercial confidentiality.

Estimated costs for Dublin

At Gate fee of €80 per tonne (oral hearings)

Therefore Covanta guaranteed €25.6 million per annum

Likely penalties for “put or pay” clause about €14.4 million per annum

Plant will have 600,000 tonnes capacity so excess can be placed on market at any price

Recycling and Mechanical biological treatments of waste can be undercut thus undermining these methods. (Covanta – happened in US cities)

Wales – Covanta offered 600,000 tonne plant at (€53) £45 per tonne (FOI)

Another deal in Elbert County Georgia US with Covanta as participant and same size facility has a gate fee of $25 (€20) per tonne

The additional income in Dublin for Covanta would be £8.64 million over Welsh deal and €19.2 million over Georgia deal.

Estimated electricity generation revenue from burning 320,000 tonnes in Poolbeg will be €11.5 million annually.

It is not in the public arena what revenue sharing arrangement has been made with DCC if any. Covanta generally retains energy revenues from tip-fee type contracts.

Compared to Wales and US, Covanta’s extra income in Dublin will be between €20 and €30 million annually.

Over 25 years this could amount to €500 to €750 million extra income in Dublin

According to McCarthy and Jennings – in 1997 incineration was selected over mechanical biological treatment – 19% cost difference

They claim the land cost, disposal of ash and cost of CO2 emissions were omitted from the calculations.

Ash produced will be 150,000 tonnes per annum – export to UK or Denmark for recycling. Cost of transporting this omitted from original costings.
“The impact of handling and disposing of the bottom ash was excluded from both the Bord Pleanala and Environmental Protection Agency hearings.

Bottom ash needs a waste licence before being exported or dumped in landfill. Thse authors claim that the ash has to be cured by allowing it to sit for weeks in air before it can be tested for hazardous classification.

The costs of ash handling, transport and land for curing have been omitted.

They also say that the original cost estimation omitted the cost of disposal of fly ash which may be toxic and needs specialised handling and disposal. – salt mines in Germany have been used. CO2 omissions costs were also omitted.

McCarthy and Jennings claim that when these omitted costs are included, MBT is cheaper than incineration.

They claim that fines for breech of Landfill Directive have not been imposed anywhere. ( spurious argument!!!)

The authors then advocate for a number of smaller Mechanical Biological Treatment Plants in the Dublin Region to deal with waste in a less costly way.

Then in a letter to the Editor of the Irish Times on 25th August 2010,
Brendan Keane claims that the four Dublin Area Local Authorities only
manage about 240,000 tonnes of residual municipal waste per annum which is declining with diversion of compostable waste and recycling. He writes that the figure will be 190,000 from 2013. This is way under the guarantee of 320,000 tonnes per annum leading to fines paid for by the taxpayer and citizens of Dublin. Thus there is a perverse incentive for the Councils to reverse recycling and composting.


This article requires a detailed reply from Dublin City Council. The public is entitled to know if the secret data either confirm or refute these allegations.

Q1. Is the gate price per tonne contracted for Poolbeg significantly higher than that charged in the US or tendered in the UK or in existence in other EU cities?

Q2. What are the arrangements regarding revenue from electricity generation between DCC and Covanta?

Q3. Where will the bottom ash and the fly ash be sent for disposal?

Q4. What is the cost estimate of dealing with bottom ash and also dealing with Fly ash?

Q5. When the cost comparisons were made, were the costs of ash disposals and CO2 production included in the comparisons with the alternative Mechanical Biological Treatment of waste?

Q6. How much residual waste was produced in 2009 and is being produced in 2010 in the four Dublin Local Authority areas?

Q7. What are the current projections for residual waste volumes for incineration or other treatment per year over the next 10 years?