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Green Commitments Up in Smoke?

The local press has recently reported that recycling in Hertfordshire has hit record levels, 70% of household waste is now recycled. This is a great achievement for the county; last years recycling rates were a mere 44%.

How we manage our waste has been an important issue in local government. Hertfordshire County Council even with improved recycling rates, still sends thousands of tons of waste to landfill. Landfill in Hertfordshire is predicted to run out by next year; Herts County Council is frantically looking for alternatives.

Herts County Council has suggested that an alternative to landfill is Energy from Waste (EfW). EfW burns waste and recovers energy from the process. Herts County Council currently plans to build an EfW incinerator in New Barnfield, Hatfield. The plant would be able to process 170,000 tons of waste per year. Herts County Council estimate that the cost of the plan could be in range of £200 million. 

The waste management business, Biffa, have just announced plans to build an EfW incinerator in Westmill, Ware. The proposed plant will be able to process 400,000 tons of waste and will produce 34 megawatts per year; enough to fuel 68,000 homes.

Environmental Concerns 

Nobody likes landfill and therefore EfW can be seen as a greener alternative as it recovers energy. But some organisations are firmly against waste incinerators. The local campaign organisation, Herts WithOut Waste, state that 85% of waste can be recycled. They see EfW as a dirty alternative, costing millions and wasting precious materials that could be reused. They believe that a better solution to burning waste includes using future technology, such as anaerobic digestion. They also point out that EfW does nothing to encourage people to recycle and reuse.

The Zero Waste Alliance is another campaign group opposed to EfW. They state that EfW solves nothing; it still creates tons of CO2 and only solves the problem and not the cause. They propose a radical solution to waste management, Zero Waste Society. In a Zero Waste Society all waste is either reused or recycled. They believe that by working with product designers, all materials will be able to be recycled.

Benefits of Incinerators

Even though EfW may have its critics, it also has advantages. EfW produces electricity, whilst landfill simply dumps waste. The ash from EfW incinerators can be recycled and used in the construction and building industry. It is also important to remember that in Europe many countries labelled as 'green' burn a large percentage of their waste.

Have your say: You can find out more about Biffa's proposed plans to build an incinerator in Ware at the public exhibition on October 9th and 10th at the Roebuck Hotel, Ware. For more information go to Biffa's website

You can find out more about the campaign against the New Barnfield incinerator by going to Action Hatfield and Save New Barnfield

We love hearing your views, please submit your opinions of EfW incinerators below.

15/10/2009 - 14:40 by Anonymous

It would be interesting to find out how much recycling of household waste has contributed to the increase from 44% to 70%; and how much can be attributed to the green waste collections.

Much of the green waste now collected would previously have been composted in people's gardens - it would never have gone to landfill anyway. So, this new waste stream has increased the total waste figures. 

The authorities prefer to focus on precentages recycled for a simple  reason. Do the maths.

Green waste is very heavy and is classed as 100% recycling. 

For each additional tonne of green waste collected, the percentage of waste recycled will rise. Even if normal recycling remains static, introducing a green waste stream will result in a very significant increase in "the percentage recycled". 







04/05/2010 - 18:52 by Ken Ripper

Just because landfill is no longer seen as a viable option for dealing with waste (this is long overdue anyway), that doesn't make burning it the best solution. Most of the waste can be recycled, if it is properly separated. Burning unseparated waste can release harmful particles into the air for miles around plants. Some of the by products such as dioxins are proven to be dangerous to health. Building incinerators based upon a spurious argument such as 'freeing energy' from waste (there are other ways to do this) locks us into the creation of poor air quality for 25 years or more. Should we really leave that legacy for our children?

The Westmill site at Ware is Biffa's target for an incinerator. The fall out from this incinerator would cover all East Herts and beyond, adding to the impacts of Edmonton's incinerator and the proposed incinerator at New Barnfield in Hatfield. You can read more about the Westmill proposal at .

Biffa have recently said that their application will be in sometime during the summer. Now is the time to learn as much as possible about the effects of incinerators so that you can express any objections in the most effective way. The Burning Issue Group website will help you with understanding more about incinerators, the impacts upon the people & environment of East Herts as well as advice of how and when to object.

05/05/2010 - 09:37 by Ken Ripper

The incinerator at Westmill is destined to burn industrial and commercial waste - not exclusively household waste. Household waste makes up a small percentage of the national waste pile. Household waste is declining because it's the easiest source of waste for local authorities to appear to be addressing a problem of too much waste.

Solving the commercial waste problem by improved separation of waste and recycling is where effort needs to be expended.

Westmill incinerator will, according to Biffa, be burning all sorts of unseparated commercial waste brought in from wherever Biffa's waste producing customers are located. It's not local waste which will be polluting local air. This is a purely commercial exercise by cynical and uncaring capital venturers looking for a quck profit.

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