International Dioxin Developments

March 27, 2017 | Complex Torts & Product Liability | General Liability

Dublin Incinerator Begins Operations

An incinerator in Dublin, Ireland, developed by Covanta is expected to be fully operational by August.


The Dublin Waste-to-Energy project is a public private partnership (“PPP”) between the Dublin city council and Covanta to provide a thermal treatment plant to treat municipal waste. Located in Poolbeg, in Dublin Port, the plant is projected to generate energy from up to 600,000 tonnes of waste per year that otherwise would go to a landfill.  According to Covanta, it will generate enough electricity for up to 80,000 homes annually, as well as district heating for up to an additional 50,000 homes.

The plant is classified as energy recovery under the European Union’s policy on waste. Part of the Dublin Regional Waste Management Plan, the project received planning approval from An Bord Pleanála in November 2007; was granted a waste license by the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2008; and received authorizations from the Commission for Energy Regulation in September 2009.

Construction on the project began in October 2014.

Fired Up

Now, the Poolbeg incinerator has begun to burn waste.

The managing director of the Irish division of Covanta, John Daly, told a local news outlet that Covanta has “already contracted out 540,000 tonnes with the main waste operators for an average period of 9.1 years” and that, as a result, the project would be financially viable.

He added that dioxin emissions at Poolbeg would be than 10 per cent of the permitted levels in the European Union due to technology installed at the facility. “We won’t be operating on a borderline situation, there’s a lot of headroom and people should take comfort from that,” Mr. Daly was quoted as saying.

Mr. Daly also noted that Ireland had run out of landfill space and had been “totally dependent for the last number of years on the export of waste.” A “waste-to-energy” plant was the standard method of dealing with waste across the European Union, according to Mr. Daly. “The waste has to be collected it has to go somewhere. We are the best solution,” he told the news outlet.

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Researchers Criticize Decision to Permit Indian Incinerator to Continue Operating

A decision by India’s National Green Tribunal (“NGT”) to permit the Okhla waste-to-energy plant in Delhi to continue operating has been criticized by two researchers.

The NGT, in a 142 page ruling, decided that the facility did not have to close down or relocate because it was not causing “any environmental pollution.” A report found the plant to be “consistently non-polluting and compliant.”

The Researchers’ Position

Dharmesh Shah, a policy researcher, and Pratibha Sharma, who coordinates the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (“GAIA”) in India, were critical of the NGT order.

In an article entitled, “Why the NGT Okhla Order Sets a Bad Precedent for Indian Environmental Jurisprudence,” they asserted that the NGT was “[u]nmindful of the demands of environmental groups and residents seeking the plant’s closure” and that the NGT, along with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, “only paid lip service about making efforts to ‘improve emission standards.’”

The researchers asserted that the plant’s operator was favored over the communities “every time.”

More specifically, the researchers pointed out that one of the primary contentions of the plant’s opponents related to the emission of dioxins and furans. According to the researchers, the major source of dioxins and furans in the environment was “waste-burning incinerators of various sorts.” They contended that the city did not separate its trash, leading to significant amounts of plastic being burned in the facility every day.

The researchers declared that the NGT’s views in this case “underscore[d] a very concerning trend towards technocratic and centrali[z]ed decision-making that sees technology as a panacea to all policy challenges.” They concluded that the NGT order was “rather myopic” as it failed to anticipate “the long-term repercussions of a waste-management system heavily dependent on incineration.”

For further information, please contact James V. Aiosa, Paul V. Majkowski, Lawrence S. Han, or your regular Rivkin Radler attorney.

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