Portuguese kilns get green light to burn waste

Move aimed at cutting national stockpile of hazardous waste approved after four-year debate

The Portuguese environment ministry yesterday formally approved plans for two cement kilns to burn industrial waste as fuel following four years of scientific investigation and public debate. The government hopes the move will help reduce a national stockpile of hazardous industrial waste.

The two plants, at Outaõ in the Arrábida nature reserve and at Souselas near the city of Coimbra, are due to begin coincinerating waste in June. Both choices have provoked intense local opposition, though an independent commission found they were unlikely to produce any extra health risks (ENDS Daily 12 December 2000).

Defending his decision, environment minister Jose Socrates said that "the long process of public consultation has not produced any arguments to alter the original decision". He pledged that "any waste that can be broken down, reused or recycled will not be burnt" and announced imminent construction of a provisional hazardous waste collection and pre-treatment plant.

Left and right-wing opposition parties have attacked the move. Jose Eduardo Martins of the right-of-centre Social Democrat Party (PSD) criticised the government for "pressing ahead with coincineration without conducting prior health tests on the local population," while Luís Fazenda of the Left Bloc (BE) objected to the "lack of effective measures to reduce and control the production of hazardous waste".

Rui Berkemeier of environmental NGO Quercus said coincineration should be a "last resort" for the disposal of hazardous waste and insisted that the government adopt measures to prevent abuses by waste producers.

Follow Up:
Portuguese environment ministry, tel: +351 21 323 2500; Quercus waste information centre, tel: +351 21 778 8473.

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