Dr Niamh Clune


Press Release:

For the week beginning 27th September 2004

  Waste: The new gold-mine of the 21st century!

Dr. Niamh Clune and Douglas Johnson would like to thank Galway City Council for giving them the opportunity to give a presentation on Monday 27th September to Galway’s City Councillors on Resource Recovery Parks. Galway City Council unanimously agreed to their request. This comes at a time when the Waste Management Plan was open to review from members of the public.

Niamh Clune and Doug Johnson have worked in war zones such as Sudan, Liberia, Mozambique and Bosnia for Oxfam, UNICEF and World Food Programme. They are international consultants in Sustainable Social and Community Development. It was during their time in Africa that they first became aware of how environmental issues impact on World Poverty; that real sustainable community development cannot be divorced from also caring for the environment and its natural resources.

Niamh is also a Director of Zero Waste Alliance, Ireland. She and husband, Doug, will address the council on Resource Recovery Parks (RRPs) in the hope that they might be able to work along-side the council in bringing an RRP to Galway. If they win the council’s support for this project, they will be applying for international funding to make this park a demonstration model for the whole of Europe. "It would be the first of its kind and Galway would be leading the way," Niamh states, "RRPs are considered today’s most progressive waste management system. They provide a twenty-first century solution to a nineteenth century problem."

"RRPs do not rely on high-tech methods designed to eliminate waste," she explains, "as more often than not, these systems generate yet more waste and create further environmental problems. Rather, they rely on the creation of wealth-from-waste industries and small businesses. In this way, RRPs provide a tangible example of best practice that changes public awareness from thinking of waste as rubbish to be buried or burned, to recognising that waste is potential wealth. Waste is, in fact, the new gold-mine of the 21st century."

The EPA in the USA defines Resource Recovery Parks as: a group of reuse, recycling, and composting, processing, manufacturing and retail businesses receiving and selling materials and products in one location. RRPs differ from Amenity Sites, as all materials for recovery and recycling are brought to and recycled on the same site; thus, cutting down on the costs of transportation and traffic volume. There are RRPs in: Rakaia New Zealand; Cabazon, Monterey, Berkley California, San Leandro; and Canberra Australia.

RRPs have their origins in the highly successful Japanese car manufacturing system of Total Quality Management control (or TQM). In other words, this economic system operates on the principle that if a company is to maximise profit margins, there should be zero defects at the end of the manufacturing chain. When transferred to industry at large, if we are left with waste at the end of a manufacturing process, this is considered a defect. Waste is; therefore, a design problem.

The green industry, in particular recycling, represents the fourth largest economic power in the world; and it is the most rapidly growing. Resource Recovery creates jobs. In the U.S., the reuse and recycling industries support more than 56,000 establishments, employ over 1.1 million people, and generate annual revenues of 236 billion dollars. Sorting and processing recyclables sustains five to ten times more jobs than land-filling or incineration. Further, the Zero Waste Trust predicts 40,000 jobs will be created in New Zealand over ten years as they convert transfer stations into Resource Recovery Parks.

Niamh states, "The price of recycled materials has tripled in three years. This is a gold mine on our back doors and we’ve ignored it. Waste is a new resource. We own it; we have bought it in the supermarket. We can get the value of it only when we put it back into local communities rather than shipping it to other countries for reprocessing. To quote Sustainable Ireland, we must "put the emphasis on a new Irish enterprise strategy focused on indigenous industry.""

RRPs operate successfully in conjunction with an MBT or Mechanical Biological Treatment Plant. In other words, at the end of the recycling, reuse and repair chain, anything that cannot be recycled back into nature or back into the market place is put through an MBT. This end user facility is a low-tech operating system. It removes all putresibles or organics so that the biological breakdown processes do not occur. The highly reactive substances are also removed so that the final residuals are rendered truly inert. These materials are then "Clean-filled" in sites where there are no green house gas emissions and no leaching into the ground. So RRPs are an incinerator-free approach to resource management, and are widely supported by environmental groups around the world.

At a time when there is no longer any doubt that Global Warming, Pollution and Resource Depletion pose the three greatest threats to world security, Dr. Clune believes that we must all become more aware that the future is on loan to us from our grand-children. We must take good care of their inheritance and make sure we leave them clean air, water and land. Mass production of cheap goods for our throw-away societies is unsustainable. Ireland, like most of its European neighbours is now faced with the realisation that we can no longer ignore the problem of waste. With its rapidly growing economy, Ireland has also developed a rapidly growing need for a Waste Management Plan that is truly sustainable. The central government in Ireland, along with the EU, are working to set out a general plan, as well as some guidelines and regulations. But what we need at this crucial time in the future development of our country is real vision from Ireland’s counties and cities to develop individualised and specific Waste Management Plans that are truly innovative.

For further details, please contact Dr. Niamh Clune on 086 8479494, or email: niamhclune@eircom.net  


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