Incineration wins role in Waste Strategy

Incineration of waste has come under fire from environmentalists and Opposition politicians, apparently persuading the Government to give only qualified backing to this option for reducing waste going to landfill, but the new Waste Strategy concedes a significant role for efw and several sites are being planned currently across the country.

Despite soft-pedalling on the incineration issue by Environment Minister Michael Meacher at the launch of the new Waste Strategy, in the face of fears over health factors, the burning of waste with energy extraction does figure among the options for waste disposal.

The section on Waste as a Fuel in Part 1 of Waste Strategy 2000, the National Waste Strategy for England and Wales, states: “Where it does not make sense to recycle waste, consideration should be given to using it as a fuel. This can be done directly, in incinerators or in industrial plant such as cement kilns; or indirectly through creating refuse derived fuel or through processes such as gasification.”

The Strategy also makes the significant point that: “Using waste as a fuel can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change – by displacing the use of more polluting virgin fuels. In some cases, it can also reduce other emissions to the environment. For example burning tyres in cement kilns reduces the quantity of oxides of nitrogen released to the environment.”

Role of CHP

The Strategy states that the benefits of using waste as a fuel in incinerators can be increased by incorporating Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology. The Government and the National Assembly for Wales says that those developing energy from waste plant should always consider the potential for incorporating CHP facilities, to use the heat as efficiently as possible.

The two government bodies also “believe that recovery of energy from waste, through using it as a fuel, has an important role to play alongside recycling and composting in a system of sustainable waste management. Energy from waste plant should be appropriately sized and care must be taken to ensure that contracts are sensitively designed to avoid ‘crowding out’ recycling. They should be developed as part of an integrated system that includes other waste management options. Where appropriate, operators should recover value from residues such as bottom ash. This could be by recovering metals, or manufacture into construction materials.”

In Part 2 of the Strategy, dealing with Incineration with Energy Recovery, an even more explicit acceptance of burning waste is set out: “If we are to achieve a sustainable waste management system, then incineration with energy recovery will need to play a full and integrated part in local and regional solutions developed over the next few years.”

The Section sets out a strong proviso to ensure safer waste incineration: “Pollution is an issue of vital importance. People have every right to demand the highest standards from all waste management facilities. The setting and enforcing of high environmental protection standards is a priority for the Government and the National Assembly.”

The Strategy examines new and emerging energy recovery technologies and lists a range of innovative options, which might be employed in the future. These include: pyrolysis, fermentation, anaerobic digestion, gasification, feedstock recycling, feedstock substitution, substitute fuels and plasma arc.

Incineration of waste with energy recovery is currently being actively considered or employed on sites around the country, from the flagship SELCHP plant in South London to planned or projected schemes such as the Grundon 30MW efw plant at Colnbrook; a £30 million investment by Kirklees Waste Services, part of the United Waste Services Group; a proposal for a 66MW project at Belvedere, near the Thames, by Riverside Resource Recovery Ltd; and Surrey Waste Management’s plans for two efw plants to handle Surrey’s waste.

The planning application for one of the Surrey sites, at Copyhold Works near Redhill, which will have a capacity of 225,000 tonnes of waste per year and will generate approximately 17MW of electricity, has been submitted recently.

Latest efw plant

The latest efw plant to come on stream and stated to be the smallest new generation plant in the UK today is the GEM (Green Energy for the Midlands) facility at Dudley. Cited as the “best demonstration of the compatibility between financial viability and the ‘proximity principle'”, the plant will process 90,000 tonnes out of the 120,000 tonnes of household waste produced in Dudley each year.

Designed, built, financed and operated by MES (Martin Engineering Systems Ltd) part of the CNIM Group, the facility will generate over 7MW of “green” electricity for export and will recover around 5,000 tonnes of ferrous metal for re-use.

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