24 Mar 2010

Incineration; the alternative

OK in comments left on my blog item here it was suggested that there is too much focus on anti-incineration and not enough on what the alternatives might be. There is some truth to that accusation although repeatedly in the vast majority of letters and blog entries the alternatives are noted (see for example letter to press here or article here). Indeed checking back the vast majority of posts have the alternative mentioned. This particular blog entry with the comments did not!

Hence for 'Joker' I take up his suggestion for 'Incineration; the alternative'....

Photo: Marchwood Incinerator, Hampshire 2007 - photo by Green party Waste expert Chris Harmer

One of the challenges is that those opposing incineration do not always agree on the alternatives. Indeed I've had some lengthy discussions with other groups about the best way forward - our disagreements are mostly minor - should a small gassification plants be accepted for a temporary part of residual waste solution? What type of MBT (mechanical biological treatment)? What level of recycling is realistic and possible? See also here and here for example discussion re IVC (in-vessel composting) or AD (anaerobic digestion)?

I say 'minor' but there has been many a heated debate - but they are 'minor' compared to the overwhelming rejection of a large incinerator. I wont repeat those arguments here.

So where does that leave us? Well recycling can tackle a much larger part of our waste than now, we can also do much more home and community composting and we can also cut a lot of waste - but that still leaves the residual waste. Certainly long term there is evidence to show that we can get close to Zero Waste but we are not anywhere near that now - although that should be our clear aim. So it is the residual waste that is the problem...and the big issue that the County is trying to address. Landfill is not an option.

Today news report that Gloucestershire is facing a landfill tax bill of £7.7million this year as the cost of burying waste rises. What would happen if we invested £8million in developing re-cycling industries? Anyway....

You can download the Glos Green party waste policy outline at: www.glosgreenparty.org.uk/waste

However I have adapted some of it below - here it is in brief:

The Interim Solutions – now to 2050

1.“6Rs” promotion and research ie the main emphasis should be on progressively driving waste out of the system. For that, we have our old friends the 3Rs – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle, to which we would add a further 3Rs – Refuse – Repair – Research. “Refuse” is “saying no” to unnecessary packaging and goods, “Research” is the context of much of the rest of the report.

2. Enhanced kerbside recycling collecting a wide range of materials.

3. Local “green” jobs from local enterprises feeding off the recyclates.

4. Enhanced household and community composting, also consider community level anaerobic digestion (AD). A lot more support and advice in this area.

5. Food waste collected separately from dry residuals until community level treatment is in place.

6. Consider “pay as you throw” as carrot / stick to encourage sorting at household level and reducing residuals. This should only be an option if recycling rates don't change fast enough.

7. Best practice from recent PFI awards is MBT (mechanical biological treatment) as both better recovery of resources AND lower capital expenditure than mass burn incineration. MBT is an automated process which separates recyclates (typically at least metals and glass, and biologicals) from the residual “black bag” waste.

8. MBT plants should be distributed in a way that optimises closeness to waste arisings. By having several plants, we mitigate the inevitable and unknown rises in the cost of transport fuel over time, and we add the flexibility of being able to decommission plant as residuals reduce over time.

9. The biological process used in the MBT process should be AD (anaerobic digestion), optimised for biogas production which could be used for powering the waste process and collection vehicles.

10. We need research to decide on the best use for the “residual residuals” that are left after the MBT processing. Use of this material as soil conditioner is problematic due to contamination, and sending it to landfill as remediated waste is practicable but unsustainable. We believe that the best use for this material may be as RDF, refuse derived fuel, which could either be disposed of on the open market or used in small, local CHP gasifiers by industry.

11. CHP gasifiers will be attractive to industries that have large process heat needs currently fuelled by fossil fuels such as gas or heavy fuel oil. These will rocket in price to uneconomic levels with peak oil. A gasifier will give heat at a stable and economic cost over time, can be fuelled with other materials such as coppice wood, straw or miscanthus if required, and can have provision for fossil fuel firing as a backup. This also safeguards relevant local industries and local jobs.

12. Consider integrated AD schemes involving agriculture and water companies.

What else?

*Well GlosAIN website now has the powerpoint presentation used by Dr Paul Connett (pictured) in his talk last month about Incineration. You can view it on the homepage http://www.glosain.org.uk/

*Defra have just released a new report - see here - the strategy doc has much to be optimistic about - it shows waste as a PM10 producer, but way down compared to transport. However it does talk about transition to low carbon, and large scale waste combustion is directly counter to current policy as laid out in this report.


Anonymous said...

Great to see some practical consideration of the various technologies for separated and residual waste treatment. As somebody who works in the resource sector I wonder if you have considered the need for lobbying against some of the permitting and exemption changes coming into force on the 6th of April from the Environment Agency. They certainly make community and on-farm composting and anaerobic digestion more difficult if possible at all in most scenarios. It looks to me like a clear preferance to large centralised facilities from the Environment Agency.

Philip Booth said...

Tell me more - I was not aware of changes that would make things more difficult....I've had a quick internet search but can't find specifics - would welcome being pointed in right direction.

Is this an issue to take up with MP?

Joker said...

Tres bien! You pulled a blinder, Philip. Great response :)

Now, if all or most of the groups arrayed against incineration could be persuaded to peruse this entry and come to some workable consensus on the alternative to incineration, to be deployed against councils when they are putting waste strategy out to tender, we'd be good to go. I know that getting that consensus is tricky (as peace negotiations fail over details, not because the participants like the idea of war), and that asking for green campaigners to agree to one answer is potentially the kind of thing an eco-troll would do, expecting acrimonious fall-outs to result. All I can say, like Joe Don Baker in 'Whacko', is you're going to have to trust me on this. That's not how I roll...

I think it's true, though, that incineration *will* win out without both a united front from the genuinely ecologically aware, *and* great care being taken to identify the ones who exploit the issue for their selfish political interests rather than real concerns.

And I wasn't at all surprised to hear about the PM10 thing. Again, the double standards manifest when any attempt to curb traffic is suggested. Still, Operation Pothole is proceeding as I have foreseen...

Anonymous said...

It is not just 'greens' that are opposed to incineration - Labour and Lib Dems locally have spoken out against - some genuinely understand the issues others seem to want win political points.

Philip Booth said...

I've added a blog today (29th March) re composting.

Groups opposing large incineration have made their cases to the County but agree it has not been a coordinated approach - it is difficult to do that without all the facts and figures publicly available ...commercial sensitivities and the way contracts are given....as noted before some Councils ruled out large incinerators before going to tender. I believe the evidence available to the County at that time was strong enough for them to do likewise. We are now seemingly stuck with what is on the table which might include MBT - or presumably starting process again.....?

Philip Booth said...

Prof. Paul Connett, who gave a successful presentation to the United Nations on Zero Waste earlier this year, is returning to Gloucestershire to give a presentation on Zero Waste on 11th May 2010, in the evening.

Joker said...

Given that Paul Collett will be giving his next presentation *after* the general election, it'll be very interesting to see how much attention our crusading politicians give to it this time round...

Philip Booth said...

I am chairing a flood meeting that night so may not be able to attend but have heard that talk on another occasion - you can be assured that this issue is not one we will drop - we have invested many many hours of meetings, collecting signatures, writing emails, researching alternatives and more - for many of us it is not about elections but about ensuring the decisions are right for now and the next generation.

Whether elected or not I will continue to work on this issue. I am also very keen to see more County councillors having the opportunity to hear Paul - I know the campaign groups are working on that....