Broadly speaking, resources include anything that is used to supply an industry. The impact of resources such as those described below are often forgotten since their impact is out of sight and may not be directly linked to the on site industrial process. In this section we have also included waste since waste is part of the resource management cycle and is without doubt an area where industry is responsible for emissions.
Virtually all raw materials used in industry and all products produced will sooner or later become waste, requiring management by recycling or disposal. A detailed breakdown of Ireland's waste is contained in the latest National Waste Report (EPA, 2020).
Ireland has made significant progress towards the achievement of its EU recovery/recycling obligations. The current recession has also led to a noticeable decrease in waste generation, particularly in the commercial and construction and demolition waste streams. Because of the economic downturn, Ireland is also moving towards achievement of the EU landfill Directive targets for biodegradable waste diversion.
The management of waste materials created by large industry, through landfilling, results directly in greenhouse gas emissions. Landfill gas for example, consists of 50-60% methane and 35-40% carbon dioxide. In fact, landfills are recognised as one of the most significant man-made sources of methane released into the atmosphere. However, even with efficient methods of gas control, which include energy recovery, landfilling is not comparable in terms of emissions to the benefits achieved by reducing, re-using and recycling. As Ireland moves towards economic recovery, waste prevention (not merely diversion) must be a priority. Large industries will have their part to play in waste prevention.
Industry contributes indirectly to greenhouse gas emissions by the use of new materials. Goods from recycled materials generally require less energy than producing goods from virgin materials. When new products are used, more energy is needed for extraction, production, processing, treatment and transportation. This results in more energy being produced at power stations or used during the production and transportation stages and therefore results in more greenhouse gas emissions. Using new materials will also ultimately result in more waste ending up in the landfills, and therefore more methane.
This area has largely been overlooked to date, since each of the impacts due to the extraction, construction, processing and transportation of materials are largely unseen by customers, suppliers, producers and retailers alike. However, more recently, the idea of green procurement has become more common place. Green procurement is essentially choosing services and goods, which have less of an impact on the environment. It requires businesses, individuals, government or large industry to make the responsible choice, and thereby limit the impact which their action or consumption will have on the environment.
The impact of the choices of businesses, individuals and the government on climate change, although extremely difficult to measure cannot be overstated. Fundamentally, the climate change challenge begins with these choices.
Most industries use water during some part of their processing or manufacturing activities. Major users of water include those industries that produce metals, wood and paper products, chemicals and industries involved in refining. Industrial water use includes water used for such purposes as fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, transporting a product, incorporating water into a product, or for sanitation needs within a facility. With approximately 4850 large industries in Ireland , the potential water use and the potential strain on our water resources and infrastructure are vast.
Not only does the water used by large industry have the potential to strain supplies, but it also consumes energy in the treatment and distribution of the water. It is important to remember that every litre of water used in Ireland has been cleaned and treated to drinking water standards, meaning that our treatment plants are consuming energy to produce high quality water, which may not be needed at all or is not needed to be of this high standard. This results in unnecessary consumption of energy.
As a result of climate change it is likely that all areas in Ireland will experience a major decrease in runoff during the summer months, while overall runoff is prejected to increase. The decrease during the summer months is likely to be up to 30% in the east of the country. Flood events will increase in magnitude and frequency in the western half of the country and seasonal flooding may occur over a larger area for longer periods of time.
Because of increased seasonal contrasts in Irish rainfall, water will become more expensive to store and manage, and as energy costs rise, so too will the cost of treating and pumping. This will pose new challenges for water services to be able to supply the public and small and large industry.
The change in precipitation patterns and the resulting necessary changes for management, along with the increased demand for water, will lead to an important consequences for large industry because the cost of water will rise. Consequently, reduction of water consumption will be the most effective way of combating the increase in both cost and the relating emissions.
It is important to remember that water is a resource, and using water requires energy, which will ultimately result in the release of some greenhouse gases.
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