27 Apr 2012

Briefing regarding Glos County Waste Procurement Project

View to Stonehouse from Randwick
The following briefing was issued by Green councillors before the debate this evening  - see next blog for outcome of vote. We have tried to be as accurate as possible with the info below - if anyone has better info I am happy to correct but at present we have been unable to get some info we require...why?

There is no doubt that we need to manage our waste, however we have been presented with a false choice: “Landfill is bad, so incineration must be good”. This is a manufactured contest: it is true that current landfill practices should be halted but we should not use, instead, an inefficient incineration technology to burn residual waste (which Energy from Waste - EfW - without heat used, is).
The Outline Business Case for EfW predicts an ever-more expensive bill to tax payers, resulting in £55m a year by the end of a locked-in 25-year contract.  SDC has experienced problems with the inflexibility of its 14-year waste collection contract due to issues unidentified at the start of the contract period, and these problems came to light a mere 7 years into the contract.
The incinerator proposal is madness. There is:
·       No chance to respond to technological developments over the next 25 years
·       No chance to obtain the benefits of a changing recycling environment & the loss of second-chance recycling
·       No ability to respond to a changing or reducing waste stream
·       The visual blight on the edge of the AONB
·       The potential impact of burning 220,000 tonnes of rubbish on our internationally recognised Cotswold Beechwoods
Other points to consider:
  • A “complete solution” residual waste facility need not be the monolithic structure proposed, which would be taller and have larger overall dimensions than Gloucester Cathedral. The County has previously referred to a ‘gateway building’ at Javelin Park. We already have our iconic building visible from around the Severn Vale.
  • An objective review (avoiding consideration of the County Administration’s need to save face over its cancelled Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) technology in 2005) is required, based on best environmental performance and the ability to respond flexibly to change.
·       The County Administration should specify best performing technology on the criteria which their stakeholder consultation identified as the most important – i.e. environment first, then flexibility.
Waste figures
The business case for the incinerator is based on a need to dispose of 175,000 tonnes of residual waste per annum (tpa) from arisings of 317,000 tpa in 2015 rising to 360,000 in 2027. However:
·       Waste arisings volumes are down from 324,143 tpa in 2006/07 to 288.884 tpa in 2010/11.
·       Nationally, total waste has been falling since 2005 (i.e. since before the recession). It is believed that the Gloucestershire floods inflated our local 2007 figures.
·       The 2011/12 actuals are now predicted to fall by a further 4,000 tpa
·       With a current recycling rate of 50%  the CC is already 20% adrift of the 175,000 tpa which they say is their requirement.
·       GCC clings to the notion that waste growth will return with economic growth. There are strong contra-indications from both the Office for National Statistics & DEFRA suggesting waste & economic growth (or disposable income) have decoupled.
·       Even the most optimistic pundit recognises that economic growth prospects are not immediate, further reducing GCC’s case.
·       GCC will not reveal how the finances work following the withdrawal of PFI funding. Their Outline Business Case (Table 1.4) shows the 25-year cost of the residual project cost as £1.18 billion (Fig 1.1). That is an average of £47m every year, for 25 years. GCC currently spends approx £22m/annum disposing of waste.
·       The contractor will be dependent upon Commercial & Industrial (C&I) waste for any shortfall to maintain viability. C&I waste has reduced by 50% in the last decade and is being driven down by industries looking to reduce overheads.
·       There is nothing to stop waste being imported into the County to be burnt in Stroud District.
·       The financial basis for the scheme is changing rapidly:
-       withdrawal of PFI due to DEFRA recognising that the capacity isn’t needed;
-       withdrawal of the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (for biodegradable matter), wiping out £30m of the projected savings;
-       waste tonnages across Municipal and C&I Waste are reducing;
-       there are calls for tax on thermal processes in recognition of the social and environmental costs of such technologies
Health Concerns
This is a contentious matter, but we would point to the precautionary principle. The alternative solutions do not raise the same concerns. Research into the effects of incinerator emissions, particularly on children, has now been commissioned by the Health Protection Agency.
·       Landfill is heavily taxed because of its social and environmental costs.
·       Question: What is the second most polluting waste disposal technology in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Answer: EfW plants without heat used (otherwise known as mass burn incineration – MBI).
·        Landfill capacity on current usage rates is available for several decades, inert materials don’t produce GHGs. 
·       The GCC Business Case is based on a 60% recycling rate by 2020. WRAP (Waste and
Resources Action Programme) reports that 85% of our waste is recyclable. The current County proposal will mean that any chance of increasing our recycling rate and retrieving useful material from the residual waste stream will be lost. Potential recyclates in the residual waste are turned into smoke and ash and lost.
·       Unless the use of heat can be made a planning and contractual condition, which currently seems highly unlikely, the plant’s EfW contribution will barely be enough for it to scrape past the “disposal” category in the waste hierarchy.
·       A significant aspect of the environmental concerns is the failure to provide detailed appropriate assessments under the habitat regulations, which take account of the extant permission at Moreton Valence for a 30,000 tons per annum gasification plant, in combination with the application for the EfW of 190,000 tpa at Javelin Park.
·       The size of the plant is gargantuan for the Severn Vale, impacting upon views towards and from the Cotswold escarpment AONB.
Viable Alternatives
The Eunomia Report for the Greater London Authorities identified the best technologies with regard to GHG emissions, and rated MBT (to include Anaerobic Digestion) as performing much better than EfW regarding GHG production. The plant costs a fraction of an MBI (EfW) plant and is much smaller. There are much reduced emissions.  Shorter contracts are available as companies do not have to cover such huge capital costs. Thus, there is a greatly reduced financial risk. Finally, a more distributed, modular system, would give the flexibility to cope with fluctuating waste tonnages.

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