by Doug Collie
The technological procedures which would have been used at the proposed £23 million waste management plant at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels pollute the atmosphere with dioxins, undermine recycling and are not cost-effective, according to global and UK campaign groups opposed to incineration.
Last month Scottish Borders Council announced it had scrapped its 24-year contract with New Earth Solutions Group (NES) which would have included the development of a controversial Advanced Thermal Treatment (ATT) waste management facility capable of handling 25,000 tonnes of refuse each year.
The company and the local authority agreed in 2013 to modify the Easter Langlee proposals to incorporate largely untried and untested technology to enable the plant to generate electricity and power a district heating system capable of supplying up to 500 Galashiels properties.
According to NES the so-called gasification and pyrolysis technologies would enhance the environmental performance of the facility. And district heating scheme customers would pay less for heat than if they were using gas or oil.
However, environmental assessments submitted to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency as part of an application for an operating permit, revealed the ATT plant would generate 3,500 to 4,000 tonnes of ash per annum. There would also be unquantified deposits of sludge and tar from the processes.
If a market could not be found for the ash then as a fall back it could be transferred directly to the Easter Langlee landfill site. So far as the sludge and tar was concerned, the report went on to admit: "It may be possible to use these residues in some industrial processes although a market has yet to be found in the UK." It recommended removal of aqueous effluent by tanker to be disposed of at local sewage works.
United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) opposes the burning of waste, including via gasification and pyrolysis. UKWIN says: "Incineration depresses recycling, destroys valuable resources, releases greenhouse gases and is a waste of money. Incineration has no place in the zero waste economy we should be working towards."
The respected Nottinghamshire based pressure group, which has been invited to submit evidence on the subject to Westminster MPs, claims gasification and pyrolysis creates toxic emissions and hazardous ash, and poses significant health risks.
UKWIN maintains that local authorities are still not maximising recycling and composting. It adds: "Waste management contractors pressure councils to accept long term (typically 20 years) contracts with conditions that conflict with recycling and may contain 'get-out' clauses applicable in cases of non-delivery."
Meanwhile the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is highly critical of gasification and pyrolysis techniques, branding them as "incinerators in disguise".
The US-based alliance warns all of these technologies emit dioxins and other harmful pollutants, despite industry claims that they are green technologies. GAIA state: "The short track record of pyrolysis and gasification has shown even higher costs, less dependability, and inconsistent energy generation.."
A report prepared for lobbyists opposing such a facility in America's Blue Ridge area concluded: "The false promise offered by gasification is that a single solution can solve all waste disposal problems. But municipal solid waste, household hazardous waste, commercial and industrial wastes, and so-called special wastes cannot be dumped in a hopper and gassed out of existence".
Perhaps the attention of Borders councillors and senior officers should also have been drawn to a document compiled up by the Jupiter Consultancy, extracts of which appear on the Friends of the Earth website. According to Jupiter: "Technology risks for many pyrolysis and gasification (P&G) processes targeting municipal solid waste can be significant.
"One reason for this is that P&G processes do not yet have an established track record in the UK. This is compounded by the fact that variants that are being widely marketed here have limited relevant track record anywhere else in the world. [This] means that the robustness of guarantees given on factors that may include process availability, maintenance costs and energy output, all of which are necessary to underpin financial models and contract terms, are often called into question in technical due diligence. Juniper still see the integration of gasification with gas engines as very risky".
Additional reporting by Ewan Lamb