Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bristol to object to Severnside mass incinerator

As Cllr Charlie Bolton reports on his blog, Bristol City Council has decided to object to the mass incinerator proposed for Severnside, S. Glos. This is great. I drafted and sent a statement (see below) for the Greens, urging the relevant Bristol City Council planning committee to send an objection to the planning application and to the application for an environmental permit to operate.

Air pollution from smoke, gases and ash from incinerators must be considered as should any heavy metals left in the ash. The cumulative air pollution impacts on people’s health, already suffering in this area, and on the health of nearby designated sites is unsustainable. S Glos should not grant planning permission and the Environment Agency should not give an operating permit to any mass incineration of waste on Severnside – this area is already heavily polluted, impacting on both human and environmental health.

Consider the effects of pollution from this area, added to the pollution already emitted, on the Severn Natura 2000 Marine site. This area was selected against rigorous scientific criteria to protect the most threatened and important species and habitats in Europe. The site is of international significance (UN RAMSAR listed, up to 100,000 birds over-winter there, Slimbridge is just upstream). It is very close to the incinerator site and is protected with tough limits for nutrient nitrogen deposition.

Because of the traffic on the M5 and the other polluting activities already in the area cumulative air pollution is already a real problem. It is our understanding that only insignificant levels of nutrient nitrogen could be permitted by the Environment Agency ie less than 1% of the critical load.

I'm opposed to mass incineration of rubbish because it encourages more waste. Incinerators need a regular feed of rubbish and authorities that have chosen incineration have correspondingly low recycling rates – this incinerator undermines waste reduction, minimisation, reuse and recycling. It offers massive over-capacity for waste facilities in Avonmouth. It runs counter to sustainable waste strategies. Contracts also tend to be very long (at least 25 years), meaning that we will have no way to adapt positively to changes in the waste make-up and volume.

In our view this mass incinerator is not part of a properly considered and appraised local/regional strategy which both acknowledges and acts on the fact that waste reduction, reuse and recycling saves far more energy than is generated by burning waste. Making fewer new things from raw materials is what makes most environmental sense because stocks of raw materials are finite. We should be doing all we can to recover and recycle valuable materials from our rubbish, rather than turn these materials into a ‘fuel’.

Incineration reduces waste to around 40% by weight, 25% by volume. It does not make waste disappear - much of the toxic ash still needs to be disposed of to hazardous landfill. Incineration does not generate renewable energy – burning plastic just substitutes one fossil fuel for another.

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