Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) welcomed the BBC Inside Out West coverage of the proposal for an Energy from Waste facility at Javelin Park, aired on Monday 7 January 2013.
With the potential to save Gloucestershire County Council and its taxpayers £190m over 25 years, providing enough electricity for 25,000 homes and diverting many thousands of tonnes of waste from landfill, the Javelin Park project is an important issue for the county.
The programme was a useful insight into the project and UBB recognises that some of the issues raised could benefit from further discussion.
The key issues raised by Inside Out that UBB would like to provide additional information on are: the claims of potential health impacts; the need case for the project; the visible plume from similar facilities; and the traffic impact of the proposals. These issues have been addressed below. More information about the project in general can be found on this website.
The programme accurately mentioned that the Health Protection Agency (HPA), a non-governmental public body set up to protect the public from threats to health, is carrying out a study to extend the evidence base as to whether emissions from modern well run Municipal Waste Incinerators affect human health. The results of this study are due in March 2014 but it is important to note that the current position of the HPA.
When announcing the study in 2012, HPA chief executive Justin McCracken said: “It is important to stress that our current position on the potential health effects of well run and regulated modern Municipal Waste Incinerators remains valid. This is that while it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from modern, well regulated municipal waste incinerators with complete certainty, any potential damage to the health of those living close-by is likely to be very small, if detectable. This view is based on detailed assessments of the effects of air pollutants on health and on the fact that modern and well managed municipal waste incinerators make only a very small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants.”
There are over 350 similar facilities operating in Europe within the strict emissions limits set by the European Union. These limits are based on research by the World Health Organisation, and are designed to protect human health and the environment. If a facility poses a risk to human health or the environment, it cannot be issued a permit to operate. Likewise, if a facility is found to be operating outside permitted levels it could lose its permit. In the UK the Environment Agency issues the permit to operate and monitors compliance, with the power to close down facilities if required.
As Councillor Stan Waddington, Gloucestershire County Council’s Waste Champion said during the programme, “We are not in the business of poisoning the people of Gloucestershire. If there was any evidence we were, we would not be pursuing this route.”
Javier Peiro, Project Director for UBB said, “As you can imagine the Environment Agency and European regulations would ban these facilities if there was a problem.”
Needs Case and Diversion from Landfill
Gloucestershire County Council’s ambitious goal is to recycle 70% of household waste by 2030 but even when this goal is reached there would still be many thousands of tonnes of waste a year needing to be diverted from landfill.
Councillor Stan Waddington said, “We can’t landfill waste any more, it’s getting too expensive. There are huge taxes being put on landfilling waste. This year, we (Gloucestershire County Council) will pay £9 million in taxes alone just to get rid of Gloucestershire’s rubbish.”
Some rubbish that is generated in Gloucestershire can’t be recycled or composted - even the top EU recyclers still have 30% or more of their waste left after recycling and composting. This includes rubbish from people’s homes, offices, street litter and the Council-run tips. Landfill is running out, becoming very expensive, and is a waste of resources. This facility will generate energy, increase recycling, avoid landfill and save the Council up to £190 million over its lifetime.
As well as household waste, there is also three to four times as much similar “residual” waste produced by local businesses. This presents similar opportunities for generating energy and diverting waste from landfill. UBB is committed to working with Gloucestershire-based businesses to maximise the local economic benefits of the facility.
Recycling and energy recovery are complimentary tools for diverting waste from landfill and maximising the recovery of value as materials or energy. Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway and Denmark all have higher recycling rates than the UK, and also incinerate more of their left over waste to provide a secure and reliable source of energy.
Emissions from similar facilities were shown during the programme. As was explained on the programme, there will be no visible “smoke” from the stack. The only thing that may occasionally be visible is water vapour, which will mostly only be seen over the site itself. Energy from Waste facilities like the one at Reno Nord visited for the Inside Out programme occasionally release visible steam from the chimney stack when hot air from the process hits colder air in the atmosphere. At Javelin Park, this visible water vapour would not stretch more than 262 metres from the chimney.
It is worth noting that there will be no “new” waste being moved around the county. All facility-related traffic will be displacing journeys currently made to landfill.
The Javelin Park site is just off Junction 12 of the M5, a junction which currently accommodates approximately 26,000 vehicle movements a day. The Javelin Park Transport Assessment indicates that the facility would generate approximately 104 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements in each direction per day. The local planning / highways authority are confident that the junction has the capacity for these additional vehicles. In addition, it is worth noting the junction has been designed to accommodate new developments and the Highways Agency has no objection to the proposals.
Given these figures, the facility would increase the number of movements through the junction by less than 1%. An existing planning permission on the site for a distribution centre would have resulted in more HGV traffic than the current proposal.
There will be no new traffic passing through local villages as a result of the facility. Current restrictions on heavy goods vehicles (HGV) access to local roads will ensure that large waste trucks will not pass through local villages on their route to and from the proposed facility. HGV waste deliveries would be limited to 0700 - 1900 hours, and the majority of deliveries will occur outside peak rush hour periods. In fact the facility would result in a net reduction of the County’s waste miles.