Saturday, 25 September 2010

My first week as a columnist

I have been invited to write a regular column for the Cornish Guardian newspaper - always worth a good read! My first column entitled: "An over-sized incinerator?" was published this week. For the followers of this blog, the article is reproduced below.

In less than two weeks, the Public Inquiry into the proposal for a massive waste incinerator at St Dennis will be re-convened at the Council Offices in St Austell. Over a period of three days, representatives of the applicant, the Council and the objectors will deliver their closing statements.

The arguments presented by both sides have certainly been extremely wide-ranging and complex; and speaking from a personal perspective, it has been a privilege to help the people of Mid Cornwall to fight the imposition of the incinerator.

Away from the Inquiry, I have often heard the statement: “well, the incinerator has to go somewhere” as if there are not more sustainable alternatives. But do we really need an incinerator, with an annual throughput of 240,000 tonnes, to deal with Cornwall’s domestic waste?

The reality is that in 2008-2009, Cornwall sent 194,958 tonnes of waste to landfill. The extent of residual waste is falling, and last year 187,343 tonnes were landfilled. This is much, much less than the capacity of the proposed plant. And this is at a time when only 37% of our local waste is being recycled or composted, considerably less that the government target of 50% recycling/composting by 2020.

What is more, at the Inquiry we debated the Waste Development Framework document which included “evidence” to propose a 240,000 capacity for the plant. Produced in 2006, it predicted that by 2010 the amount of residual waste in need of “land-filling or incineration” would be between 232,333 and 245,443 tonnes.

How wrong could they be? And how can people continue to argue for such a large incinerator when the “justification” for it, produced just four years ago, managed to over-estimate the amount of waste that would need to be dealt with by 45,000 - 57,000 tonnes (24% - 31%). Where is the credibility of their arguments?

An analysis of black bag waste carried out by Cornwall County Council in 2007 has also found that 60% of the contents of an average bag could be reused, recycled or composted, including materials such as paper, cardboard, plastic, wood, glass, metals, food waste and other organic matter.

I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that it is ridiculous that thousands and thousands of tonnes of such recyclable and bio-degradable material should be incinerated, when much better use could be made of these resources.

The case for a 240,000 tonne incinerator does not make environmental or economic sense, and it should not be allowed to get the go-ahead.

But we can all do our bit to work towards a more sustainable approach to waste. We can do our utmost to firstly reduce the amount of waste we create, while also maximising what we then recycle or compost.

1 comment:

Rob's blog said...

Congratulations on the column a very good read and you made your points well.

Anyway I have blogged about Site opening the St Dennis incinerator construction project out to public tender, despite not yet gaining offical planning permission,