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

Javelin Park incinerator to be built by…

Well, after many months (or years) of work, the preferred bidder for the incinerator project at Javelin Park is Urbaser/Balfour Beatty (UBB).

According to the article and other sources, the energy production capacity from the incinerator will be enough to power 25,000 homes, from 116,000 Megawatt hours of electricity.

What’s the equivalent power in terms of wind turbines? Well, 1 x 5MW turbine can produce 15 million KWh per year or 15,000 Megawatt hours. This means that if 116,000 Megawatt hours will be produced by the incinerator, this means it’s equivalent to 7.7 x 5MW wind turbines! That’s a virtually constant source of power and not just when the wind blows.

(1 KW = 1000 watts, 1 MW = 1 million watts)

The Ecotricity M4 Reading example is a 2MW capacity turbine, so this means the incinerator could be producing enough energy to equate to just over 19 of these turbines! If you’ve ever driven past this turbine, you’ll understand why this is fairly impressive.

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Black bin and waste reduction progress…

Recently we started only putting rubbish in our normal bin if we absolutely have to. This means virtually all of the things we used to call rubbish are now being recycled or composted and it’s amazing how little waste we’re producing now.

This Friday was bin day and this week our black bin was only a third full! We used to have weekly rubbish collections, then this was changed to every other week, in order to try and reduce waste and boost recycling. Before this new scheme was introduced, we were filling our black rubbish bin every week.

Now, we’re down to the third full every other week, which means we’re throwing away 6 times less than before. Even compared to 3 weeks ago, when we started not throwing most stuff away, it’s gone down by 3 times.

I’m really surprised at how easy it’s been to do this. All we’ve been doing is putting anything plastic in a separate black bag and composting all our food waste. This has reduced our waste by 6 times from before.

Once we have a full black bag of plastics waste, we just save it until we can take it up to Claire’s grand parents in west Brom, where their Council operate a co-mingled collection scheme and who take all of this type of plastics material, plus all of the other usual materials, such as glass, metal and paper.

Virtually everyone can do this and if they did, there would be huge amount of waste reduced, not sent to landfill, a huge amount of energy would be saved by recycling the existing packaging and not making new packaging from depleting raw materials.

Plus, you get loads of amazing compost from the food waste which is way better than anything you can buy in the shops! It’s a win-win-win situation.

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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.

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Plastic recycling continued…

Having started to studiously collect ALL of our plastic rubbish, hoping to find somewhere for it to be posted to… we have just found out that Gloucester is stuck in the past and many other local authorities accept many more, or in some cases, all plastic rubbish for recycling.

What we’re now going to do is take it up to Claire’s grandparents in West Brom (Sandwell District Council) and put it in their blue bin, whenever we go and see them. Well done to Sandwell and the others, as this is an important part of the recycling mix, based on very finite resources, which do not biodegrade in landfill.

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