A BRISTOL city councillor responsible for waste management and recycling has blasted Gloucestershire County Council ’s plans to build a £500 million incinerator at Javelin Park, saying it would be ‘disgraceful’ if the facility was allowed to proceed.
In an extraordinary intervention in the ongoing public debate about the proposed facility, Cllr Gary Hopkins contacted the SNJ to warn that GCC would be making a huge error if it pressed ahead with the plant.
Cllr Hopkins, a Liberal Democrat who, in his role as executive member for targeted improvements at Bristol City Council (BCC), is in charge of waste and recycling programmes, said GCC risked squandering tens of millions of pounds of county taxpayers’ money if it persisted with the planned incinerator.
He said incineration was ‘outdated’ and that it was not only ‘inferior’ in environmental terms to other waste disposals technologies but also vastly more expensive.
Cllr Hopkins could be said to speak from a position of authority on the issue because in 2009 BCC, along with three other unitary authorities which comprise the West of England Partnership, decided to reject incineration as the solution to their waste disposal conundrum.
Instead, the Partnership opted to enter into a nine-year contract for the disposal of its rubbish with New Earth Solutions, which processes some 200,000 tonnes of waste annually at its Mechanical Biological Treatment facility in Avonmouth, near Bristol.
Although New Earth Solutions exports around 60 per cent of the waste it treats to incinerators in Europe, it is currently building a pyrolysis and gasification plant in Avonmouth, which, when finished, will process all of the waste it presently ships abroad.
Once the plant is completed next year, New Earth Solutions expects to divert more than 95 per cent of the waste it processes away from incineration and landfill.
Cllr Hopkins said this approach of combing MBT along with pyrolysis and gasification was a greener, more efficient and more cost-effective means of disposing of waste.
He said Liberal Democrats and Conservatives on Bristol City Council both agreed this was the case and supported rejecting incineration.
"We undertook a detailed analysis comparing the cost of an incinerator with the cost of an MBT plant and we found that MBT was dramatically cheaper," he said.
"Building an incinerator is going to cost GCC tens of millions of pounds extra as well as providing an inferior environmental performance."
Despite only comparing the costs of incineration vis-à-vis an MBT plant and not with regards to an MBT plant and an additional pyrolysis and gasification facility, Cllr Hopkins maintains that using the two technologies in tandem is still less expensive than incineration.
He said per ton it was £25 to £30 cheaper to treat waste in an MBT plant than incinerate it.
In the case of Javelin Park, which will process an estimated 190,000 tonnes of waste annually, that would equate to a minimum saving of £118.75 million over the course of the 25-year contract Gloucestershire County Council is planning to enter into with Urbaser Balfour Beatty for the facility.
Those savings would more than pay for the leftover waste from the MBT process to be disposed of in a pyrolysis and gasification facility, Cllr Hopkins says.
He added that the West of England Partnership had greater flexibility managing its waste because the length of its contract with New Earth Solutions was considerably shorter than the one GCC is looking to sign with Urbaser.
"This incinerator proposal would be disgraceful if it was allowed to proceed," said Cllr Hopkins.
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RESPONDING to councillor Gary Hopkins’ statements, Gloucestershire County Council’s cabinet champion for waste Stan Waddington suggested that Bristol is relying on untested technology to dispose of its future waste.
Cllr Waddington said MBT and gasification had been ruled out as alternatives to incineration in Gloucester because MBT on its own provided an incomplete solution, while gasification, he claimed, is untried.
“We specifically looked at MBT – but it only treats waste – it doesn’t get rid of it,” he said.
“An MBT plant effectively cooks rubbish, driving off water and stabilising organic compounds like food waste.
“This reduces the waste volume by about 20% - but you’ve still got a lot of waste to get rid of.
“At the moment, Bristol ship much of this to Amsterdam, to be burnt in an incinerator.”
As reported, from next year that waste currently exported abroad will be disposed of in a new gasification plant at the Avonmouth site, however, Cllr Waddington intimated that the technology remained unproven.
“DEFRA funded a gasification plant in the Isle of Wight, which came online in 2008.
“In 2010, its license to operate was suspended when its dioxin emissions were found to be eight times the legal limit and it has been condemned by the local council as unreliable.
“It’s hard to tell whether the same problems will apply to Bristol’s new plant, because the technology is not widely used.”
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A COUPLE of weeks ago, business secretary Vince Cable held up New Earth Solutions’ pyrolysis and gassification technology as a shining example of the sort of innovation he wanted to see from British companies.
During a visit to one of their sites in Dorset on July 19, Dr Cable was shown the New Earth Advanced Thermal (NEAT) units which will be used in the company’s first pyrolysis and gassification plant in Avonmouth, due to be completed by the end of next year.
The energy recovery units will convert leftover waste from the company’s MBT plant into a high-energy gas capable of powering a boiler and steam turbine or gas engine.
Each unit has the capacity to generate enough renewable energy to meet the needs of around 1,800 homes.
"It is very encouraging to see projects such as New Earth’s renewable energy recovery plant being developed," said Dr Cable on his visit.
"The quality of innovation I have seen here – and the potential it offers UK plc – provides encouraging evidence that the entrepreneurial spirit we need to re-build our economy is thriving."