From Bundoran to Bunyola, waste in haste.
Nestled on the North west coast of Majorca, in the spurs of the Serra de Tramuntana, just 9 miles from Majorca’s Capital, Palma , lies the picturesque town of Bunyola. It’s just 2,572 km from Bundoran, but unlike Bundoran its 5,475 inhabitants (double that of Bundoran) have a serious concern. They live near a large Incinerator that is operating below full capacity (like many others in Europe). But proposals currently before the Governing Council of Majorca will allow the import of residual Irish waste for burning. Problem solved you might think. They get money, we get rid of rubbish cheaply.
Maybe we’ve missed a vital piece of logic in the rationale used. For an island that survives on tourism and that expounds the concept of clean open spaces, mountains, rural pursuits, crystal clear sea and bright sunshine it seems somewhat idiotic to invite thousands of tons of residual rubbish along with holidaymakers every year. We certainly wouldent allow this to happen to our Green island. Would we?
Licence to burn in Majorca.
When the Son Reus burner was originally built in 1992, near Bunyola, it handled 300,000 tons of waste. But guess what? Just like our own Carrinstown Indaver burner, its capacity was increased to 432,000 and then in 2011 to 736,000 tons. But why? Since this is more waste than Majorca produces (Majorca creates about 540,000 tons of waste annually). Sounds familiar ? Sounds a bit like Poolbeg rationale?
Another similarity relates to the longevity of the licence granted to Tirme , the operator. It has a licence to waste treatment in Mallorca until 2041.
So in order to feed the capacity shortfall of the Incinerator waste must now be imported in increasing quantities for the next 27 years to match any drop in local Majorcan waste generation.
Ironically Bunyola, has been a trailblazer for recycling waste and its local council is naturally indignant that piles of rubbish (ash) will in effect be dumped at its back door and pollute its air. The cruel outcome of increasing Eco awareness in Majorca , leading to less residual waste , means more rubbish imports will be needed to feed the burner. So there is no commercial reward for the Majorcan population to become greener!
When Irish eyes are smiling….something’s burning.
The reason why Irish waste could be exported to Mallorca is probably because the north west region is faced with a deficiency in waste management infrastructure and the Son Reus Incinerator needs more waste to fully utilise the burning capacity. (they previously tried to import Italian waste, unsuccessfully). So there is a commercial fit for these two needs to meet. We don’t need to invest in infrastructure and they fill a revenue gap.
Bunyola – A long way from Clare to here.
But do we know where the Irish waste will be generated — in Derry ? Donegal ? Belfast ? Clare? perhaps Dublin? In fact, it could come from any part of the country, transported quietly by truck to the Port of Derry, and loaded on a ship. Derry Harbour Commissioners might be delighted of course, as the exports will increase tonnage throughput at one of Ireland’s smaller ports !
We all know that the waste industry is driven by the need to reduce costs at every stage, and one of the reasons why waste might be exported from Ireland to Mallorca is undoubtedly because it is cost-effective. The landfill levy in the Republic has been steadily increased in Ireland (from €30/tonne to €50/tonne in 2011 to €65/tonne in 2012 and €75/tonne in 2013). This creates an opportunity for Irish waste exporters or brokers if they can find cheaper options.
The Zero Option.
Of course, if we reduce our own waste in the first instance and use the latest Zero Waste technologies here, there would be no waste to export. The local treatment of waste resources would provide new jobs here and help develop our own remanufacturing, re-cycling and re-use industries. This would keep money at home and put more of it (money not waste) in people’s pockets (which they might spend on a holiday to, well… Majorca?).
And if there was no waste to burn the Son Reus plant might have to close down. Oops, that’s bad news for Tirme’s cashflow – they’re expecting bumber revenues till 2041 remember- but great news for Majorca’s tourists and its hospitality industry and those 5,475 Eco aware Spaniards in Bunyola. Ole!
Sangria and soot?
So next time you’re lying on a sunny Santa Ponsa beach , pay attention to the wind direction. You might just get a whiff of your own waste, that’s followed you like a dog turd stuck to your sandals.
Discreetly check for traces of Soot in your Sangria as the turgid smoke wafts out in the night sky from the incinerator smoke stacks in the distance.
Cheers and ….. Bon voyage !