Abstract of PhD Thesis

Communicating Environmental Risk; Waste, Incineration and Dioxins

Joanne Rourke, Trinity College Dublin(2011)

Although regulators and waste industry experts tend to claim that dioxins and other emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration pose no significant health or environmental risk, publics continue to harbour concerns and debates about incineration risks continue. The gap between technical risk assessments and ‘lay’ perceptions of incineration risks means that effective risk communication is crucial to incinerator siting decisions.

Utilising a content analysis of newspaper reports and official information from the Dublin Waste to Energy Project combined with semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders involved in the Poolbeg incinerator debate, this research aims to examine how incineration risks have been communicated to publics in Ireland. The main findings of the research emphasise the importance of geographical and historical contexts in risk communication and highlight the conditionalities of institutional trust.