19 Jul 2011

Protest at County incinerator plans

Yesterday Stroud District Green Party's county and district councillors demonstrated their opposition to the proposed mass-burn incinerator at Javelin Park during the public consultation (see left). At the consultation over 4 days there was a County stall and the final two bidders for the £500 million county council contract - over a 100 people had gone through yesterday during the day alone.

As regular blog readers will know Greens have long called for an efficient waste strategy, based on maximum recycling and the least environmentally damaging technology to disposes of the residual (see our policy here). Mass Burn Incineration will not meet either of these objectives. I wont go over all the arguments here again but did want to do a quick blog on where we are.....

You can see here my letter to local press in April on this. I also noted that: "In 2006 at a meeting attended by Cllr Sarah Lunnon, Stan Waddington proclaimed there would be no incineration in Gloucestershire." Sadly he has not kept this promise. It seems the County Tories are also not going along with the advice from their National Party which seemed to be giving a clear steer away from incineration - see here.

A Mass Burn Incinerator is really not a big cuddly green renewable power station as some have suggested. At a maximum 40% efficiency the majority of the potential energy shoved into the pit will be wasted, and that’s not counting the energy used to make the objects being roasted. The government predicts that waste production is falling, how can such a technology can be part of sustainable recycling plan.

County Councillor Sarah Lunnon noted that waste from Commercial and Industrial users has already fallen massively in the county. If due to continued government and county actions waste continues to fall and recycle rates really do hit 70% she predict that in the near future, long before the end of the 25 year Incinerator contract that the county council will either reduce recycling initiatives or be forced to buy waste to feed the Beast of Javelin Park.

Lack of clear info

One worrying point was the lack of clear information from the exhibition portacabins - for example will the County be fined if they don't produce the waste? One company said yes the other said they would absorb the costs. Clearly the details are not out but it is worrying that such basic info is not available. One company also said they were not aware of food waste collection in the District. This was surely their time to impress us - well that company certainly failed. There was also disagreement between the two about how little waste they could run their incinerators on - one said 50% the other thought that unlikely.  Greens also challenged some of the figures available - one of the two bidders claimed "a 66% reduction in greenhouse gases" but this was a bit of a nonsense figure based on food waste going to landfill and not on projections if recycling increases.

It was at least reassuring that County Officers were well informed and willing to engage. I also raised the issue of the AD plant - see blog previously here - and why they might be blocking it - well I welcomed that they had not thrown the idea out and it was still a possibility.

Have campaigners had an influence on plans?

We should at least be please that the recycling target is now 70% not 60% as it was in some of the original proposals. This is significant and means the incinerator will be small - well it is still monster size (see left) but small by comparison. This is significant as the County could have gone for a much larger plant - and we should note that 70% recycling will not be easy - this country has messed about not tackling waste for so long - look at other countries recycling systems - still a significant proportion of Gloucestershire do not even recycle. What incentives will we need?

Another win is that provision has been made in this contract for the heat to be used - this would significantly improve the plans but doesn't get away from all the other concerns about burning resources we need and lack of flexibility etc - and where is the plan - of course this is a chicken and egg situation but work needs to happen now. Could Huntsgrove developments take the heat? Or what else?

Where next?

The Government cancellation of PFI's should have been the nail in the coffin for this project. You can see Green party policy here - it has the arguments about why we reject mass burn incineration - it has for example been best practice from PFI awards to go for MBT (mechanical biological treatment) as it has 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.

There has been much to be dismayed about over the years in this waste debate - how can it take so long - I remember discussions 10 years ago and we still have no solution built - there has also been much to be concerned about - at one point the County seemed to doctor the responses to waste to reduce residents concerns over sustainability - it took ages to get hold of documents which in the end Greens published on their website here. David Drew, then MP, also raised an EDM in the House re concerns - see here. Indeed the concerns are that the whole process could lead to a Judicial Review - Greens have raised this in the past - see here. We have to wait and see but the campaign groups continue and had people at a stall the whole time the consultation was running over the last few days.

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