Incineration considerations…


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The Gloucester incinerator (AKA: energy from waste facility). Well, my heart says ‘no’ but my head says ‘maybe’. It’s useful sometimes to analyse each part of the argument, rather than focussing on any single area. I’m reading the Complete Works … Continue reading

The Gloucester incinerator: public consultation event…

A small group of us cycled over to the second consultation event at Javelin park on Sunday, for some first hand information from the two remaining bidders and the representatives from the County Council.

The Complete Circle website

The Urbaser Balfour Beatty website

There were three Portakabins just by the car park, with the two bidders on either side. I went into the Complete Circle cabin first as I had already viewed all their factsheets and website material, so felt I knew the most about their scheme.

Well, after 10 minutes in there, I was pretty sure I knew more about their scheme than they did! I lost track of the number of times a couple of them said ‘i’ll have to ask someone else’. Their design is bland and bulky and at around 45 metres in height over most of the building, this presents a large intrusion in the local landscape. There were very few answers to some of my only slightly probing questions and I honestly felt like the object was to just display their website information without the ability to expand on it.

Next was the Urbaser & Balfour Beatty cabin, which was a marked improvement on the first bidders efforts, in a number of ways. The UBB team were technically better prepared and able to comment on and explain both the principles involved and their own scheme design + why they had altered some of the elements from the first consultation.

Their efforts were greatly helped by an interesting overall design, a real model of the facility and a computer fly-through. Their design is broken up into distinct sections, which fall in height along the building, giving a lower overall mass, also broken up by large green sections. Their technical people were able to answer all my questions and the overall impression was far more convincing and reliable.

The County cabin was last and was in many ways the important one, considering they are in charge of the tendering process. They were able to answer my questions and they seemed fully aware of the many issues involved, particularly surrounding the problem of getting to the magic 70% recycling rate (which only Austria have hit in Europe).

The next stage for them is to seek to co-mingle all the recyclable materials in a single bin (much like other districts), which would certainly boost the present 48% rate. Their example of Tewkesbury Borough Council going from 32% to 54% in a year, after introducing this type of scheme, is a good indicator. 48% could go to 60% in a year and get to 70% based on continuing to support and promote recycling.

My questions and issues:

1) Why no pre-incineration sorting of the ‘rubbish’? This was the main issue, given that so much of what people put into their black bins can be recycled.

2) What are the overall emissions, in terms of particles and CO2?

3) Will the emissions data be fed live onto the website?

4) What frequency of bin lorries will be required and will their be any non-local deliveries?

5) How will the ash be disposed of?

6) What is the CO2 output per tonne of waste?

7) What is the visual impact of the proposals? This was particularly interesting, given CABE’s response included the quote, ‘…fits seemlessly into the countryside.’!

I’ve also just sent off a query to UBB concerning wanting information on the WRATE system information which they are submitting. This will hopefully give an overall comparison figure for the NET emissions issue.

‘WRATE (Waste and Resources Assessment Tool for the Environment) software compares the environmental impacts of different municipal waste management systems.’

One of the main conclusions from the process that day was picking up on both bidders assertion that NET CO2 emissions would be reduced by more than 20,000 tonnes per year, when compared to landfill. I did ask if this included all the linked processes, such as all delivery vehicle movements, but neither bidder had this information with them, but this was included in their environmental assessment package.

The other major plus for the incinerator approach is the production of electricity. I forgot to ask about the proposed solar panels on the roofs, but energy production is certainly a very important element of the package.

So, the overall winners by some way were Urbaser Balfour Beatty. I’m going to have to look into the NET emissions figures further, partly because of the Methane issue – methane as a green house gas in more than 20 times more powerful than Carbon and is released in huge amounts from landfill.

I’m certainly not as opposed as I was and accept that landfill is not a good approach to waste management. My main concern is still the burning of waste which could otherwise be recycled, therefore making more efficient use of what are valuable and limited resources.


The Gloucester incinerator…

The future Gloucester incinerator. Good news or very bad news?

This late-night angry rant (before I watch Liverpool getting spanked by Blackpool (!!) on MOTD2), was inspired by Baz Kirby’s Blog post about it. Thanks to him for getting me to re-look at this. It’s an important issue which needs more attention.

There is no definitive conclusion, given the different weights which each person will place on each aspect of the debate, but, sometimes you just have to jump off the fence and put your flag in the ground!

There are a number of positive aspects, otherwise it wouldn’t even be an issue. Just to get these out of the way first, there is a very short term cost saving, in that little or no waste will be dumped in land fill, therefore saving most, if not all, of the landfill taxes. The electricity produced by the system can also be used or sold to the grid.

Ok, that’s about it.

Here are the negatives:

More new material has to be manufactured to replace that being incinerated, whereas this material could be recycled, therefore massively reducing the energy and raw materials needed.

In terms of the waste hierarchy, there are a number of important steps before this stage which should be developed and put to use. These are prevention (not using the material in the first place), minimisation (using less of it), reuse (repair the thing or put it to a different use) and finally recycle (use the various elements which make up the product in other products).There are many different types of pollutants found in the waste ash + there is the waste emissions from the chimneys.

Fine dust particles and dioxins are a real medical issue. Fine particles are repeatedly correlated to infant mortality.

The very existence of a large incinerator encourages more waste production and less recycling, given that these large incinerators need to be fed rubbish constantly.

Waste materials from the incineration process will end up in landfill, which costs a lot of money, in terms of management, land take and taxes.

The waste fly Ash needs specialist toxic waste landfill disposal elsewhere, also leading to further transport miles.

Long contract periods needed in order to recover initial investment costs, causing a long-term lock-in (operational lifetime is roughly 20-30 years). Even if better and more sustainable alternatives are chosen in the short or medium term, the incinerator will remain operational.

There already are better alternatives and this issue will become more and more pronounced as time goes on, with better technologies being developed. One example is the MBT method – Mechanical Biological Treatment, which can produce a fuel source or recovery of individual components, such as plastic, glass and metals. The biological treatment part of this is currently in use via Gloucester’s brown bin collection system and gets sent to a farm which processes the food waste in huge anaerobic digestion containers. The product is fertiliser, used in farming.

Incinerators can produce electricity but there are many other cleaner ways to produce electricity that doesn’t involve incineration – tidal, hydro-electric, wave, solar, wind etc.

Visually undesirable, with prominent chimney stacks and associated industrial structures.


New clothes drying system…

Ok, the new clothes drying system is finally decided on, after months of thinking about how to best dry our huge amount of washing! The whole idea is to ditch using the clothes tumble dryer, as it uses a fair bit of electricity, with the cost and environmental implications.

We produce a lot of washing right now, especially with the kids going through loads of clothes. We needed a system where we can dry clothes outside in any weather, given that outside drying is very effective. The outside moisture level is less than indoors + the wind is a key part of it.

I was trying to design a system of multiple hanging lines, to be fixed to the back of the bathroom, but this is a fairly restricted area and is good for the sun, therefore growing food! The side of the house would have been good, but given we’re hopefully getting the render done, this wouldn’t be able to go there either.

So, keep things simple, get a rotary clothes dryer with a rain cover! Thanks to our friends the MK’s for that! Lots of places sell these things and lots of good reviews.

This friend of ours has already switched over to the new system – she fed back that that a whole load was dried within the day and some more as well. You can also leave it over night with no worries. I left a load out yesterday on a standard clothes horse and it was dry by early afternoon.

The equation for working out the cost of the dryer each year is as follows:

Power consumption of dryer (in Kilowatts) X Electric cost per unit (roughly £0.09) X hours operating per week X 52 = annual cost (£) of running dryer.

We’ve got a grade A John Lewis dryer which is a condenser dryer with a heat pump, which recycles some of the heat and power. It was basically one of the most energy efficient models when we bought it and uses 1200 Watts. A lot of other models use around 2000 Watts or more. I’ve worked out ours, based on 5, 6 or 7 hours operating per week, as it varied a bit.

5 hours = £28.10

6 hours = £33.70

7 hours = £39.30

I reckon we were at roughly 5 hours per week, as it’s roughly 2.5 hours per complete cycle and there were maybe 2 of those per week (as an average over the year).

So, this could be anywhere from £50 to £200 for less efficient dryers (based on individual usage) + the cost of buying the dryer in the first place and getting it fixed every now and again. So, a new rotary dryer and cover will be roughly £70, but we’re going to sell our dryer for hopefully at least a couple of hundred pounds + we won’t be using the electric as much.


Carbon footprints: banana

Apparently, bananas are actually a fairly green food (green as in CO2).

1 banana = 80g CO2

1 minute of mobile to mobile use = 57g CO2

1 apple = 57g CO2

I might feel better about eating them now. The article about the Carbon Footprint of nuclear war is slightly alraming though!


Sustainability challenge!

Up to this point, i’ve been working under the assumption that as part of the whole house renovation project, we would at some point get solar panels (photovoltaic panels – PV), which would generate electricity. This was one of the reasons for switching to the electric rads.

We’re now in a position to be able to go for a small solar PV system, located on the rear roof (above Jamie’s room, which faces just west of due south). I’ve got figures and costs from a PV company which one of our work colleagues used and there are a range of feed-in tariffs and grants running now, which means we can sell the electric we generate back to the grid (at roughly 30p a unit – it costs roughly 12p a unit to buy normally), and get a grant from a government sustainability programme.

Ok, so far so good, but what’s the SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE??

Well, the whole point of doing this is to become more sustainable, but there are other ways of achieving this aim. The challenge here is to work out what options there are, and then to compare them to see what the best overall option is. I suppose the point is not about ‘protecting the environment’, or ‘saving the planet’ – it’s more about the massive impact which climate change will have on people (and also all the other species).

The other thing i’ve noticed is how insulated we are against climate change, with the main impacts being economic, rather than physical. In the developing world, it’s both economic and physical (or even life-threatening – if your crops fail, you die). If the developed world has no need to change, it won’t, but it’s the developed and fast-developing countries (USA, Europe, India, China etc), which have the most power to change things). These types of countries will soon have to change, as there will be mounting economic pressure to do so, but I feel it will have to get pretty bad before it really kicks in (notice how the recent world recession has not really led to any sweeping policy changes). If we’re not seeing major changes during the worst global recession for 60+ years, what will it take?

I’ll be posting a series of updates about what info we’ve found out and some of the background issues. This might also give other people ideas and start an ECO REVOLUTION!!

Well, maybe not, but I might find out some interesting things and as a result, give us a way forward.