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How Northern Ireland's waste problem could leave a toxic legacy

Northern Ireland is producing more than two million tonnes of waste each year, with campaigners claiming that inadequate government policies could create a toxic legacy for future generations.
How Northern Ireland's waste problem could leave a toxic legacy

Detail Data today reports on how Stormont is struggling to cope with the discovery of more than two million tonnes of illegally dumped waste in the past decade, nearly 6,000 incidents of fly-tipping a year, plus the burning of nearly 400,000 tyres in fires at recycling plants since 2009.

Using data from a number of sources, including the Courts, the NI Fire and Rescue Service, Councils and Assembly Questions, we have found that:

  • More than two million tonnes of waste has been found in illegal or unapproved landfills.
  • DAERA confirmed the location of 66 illegal dumps between 2006 and 2015, containing more than 724,000 tonnes of waste.
  • The Department estimate total disposal costs for these 66 sites is more than £22.3million.
  • 177 people were convicted of waste offences between 2012 and 2015.
  • Last year councils tackled nearly 6,000 incidents of fly-tipping, where waste was deposited onto land which had no licence to accept it.
  • The Northern Ireland Environment Agency spent £1.3 million clearing 600 fly-tipping incidents between 2012 and 2015, in addition to council expenditure dealing with fly-tipping, 
  • Nearly £1million was spent clearing more than 2,500 tonnes of waste related to fuel laundering between June 2012 and October 2014.
  • Between August 2009 and March 2016 more than 400,000 tyres burned in fires at recycling facilities.
  • 26 fires were recorded at recycling facilities between August 2009 and March 2016. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said that tackling the blazes cost £365,000.
  • ​Each year councils spend more than £165million of public money collecting and disposing of nearly one million tonnes of (legally disposed of) rubbish, including £40million on litter alone.

Friends of the Earth director James Orr believes that the scale of illegal dumping, coupled with the prospect of Brexit and the potential future loss of European Union environmental safeguards has brought government to a crossroads:

“To clean up these (illegal) sites could potentially bankrupt Northern Ireland, but not cleaning up these sites leaves a toxic legacy and we cannot pass on this toxic legacy to future generations."

Perhaps the first visible indication of this is litter, which according to Ian Humphreys of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful costs £80million a year.

“We have a £40million street cleansing bill, which as ratepayers we are covering each year,” said.
“We also know, from independent research, of another £40million cost to society through things like health and wellbeing, impact on tourism, investment and so on.”

To read the full article by Detail Data's Cormac Campbellclick here.

There are a number of datasets related to this topic on this Data Portal: