Thursday, 26 October 2017

Methane from Borders landfill = 7,000 cows!

Blowing in the wind EXCLUSIVE by EWAN LAMB

The 356,000 kilos of methane sent skywards from the Easter Langlee landfill site on the outskirts of Galashiels in 2016 equates to the annual gas production of 7,120 beef cattle, according to an investigation conducted by Not Just Sheep & Rugby. 

The rubbish tip operated by Scottish Borders Council is already mired in controversy as planners consider a second application from the local authority who wish to develop a £4 million waste transfer station on land which may already be contaminated.

A growing number of objections to that plan - mainly on grounds of road safety - have been submitted to the planning department which is, of course, another service run by SBC. In the last few days Councillor Harry Scott, one of the Galashiels representatives on the council, has added his voice to the list of waste transfer station opponents.

Meanwhile the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) today published environmental statistics on emissions of greenhouse gases in 2016 including methane and the even more damaging chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

The reporting threshold for methane is 10,000 kgs per annum and for CFCs and HCFCs 1 kg per annum.

That means the 356,000 kgs of methane emissions at Easter Langlee last year were more than 35 times above the reporting threshold. There was a slight drop from 403,000 kgs in 2015, but the figure was well above the 2010 level of 274,000 kgs.

Scientists claim methane warms the planet by 86 times as much as carbon dioxide (CO2). And based on the estimate that one beef cow emits 50 kgs of methane into the atmosphere each year it would require 7,120 head of cattle to equal Easter Langlee's "performance".

The toxic mixture of emissions at Easter Langlee also included 27.4 kgs of CFCs and 21.4 kgs of HCFCs. Both figures are more than 20 times above the reporting threshold. Levels of CFCs and HCFCs above the threshold are not generated from any other site in the Scottish Borders.

SBC intends closing the landfill facility down in 2018 in yet another bid to comply with Scottish Government regulations on burying household refuse.But their intentions could be jeopardised if planning committee members reject the waste transfer station concept again.

The waste disposal issue should have been dealt with by 2013 had proposals for a modern Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facility been delivered on time. Instead SBC took a huge gamble in a bid to incorporate untried Advanced Thermal Treatment (ATT) technology into the project which resulted in the entire venture having to be aborted in 2015 without a single brick being laid on site.

Now we wonder - mischievously - whether spreading vast quantities of seaweed over the landfilled sections of the Easter Langlee site might cut methane emissions by say 90%. Apparently boffins in Australia may have come up with proof that including seaweed in the diet of cattle might curb their harmful 'botty burps'.

News of this potentially game changing breakthrough emerged in a Scottish Parliament written answer, published only hours before SEPA produced their data. Here is the riveting exchange in full:

John Scott (Ayr) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government what evaluation it has made of the claim made by the University of Queensland that including a certain type of seaweed in the diet of cattle can reduce their methane output by up to 90%.
Fergus Ewing:  (Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy): The Scottish Government is aware of this work as part of a wider assessment which it has undertaken on the potential for reductions in GHG emissions to be made through changes to livestock diets.
John Scott (Ayr) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government whether it has invited any research institutions to evaluate the work of the University of Queensland with regard to methane reduction in cattle by including seaweed in their diet, and to assess whether a Scottish application might be found for this research. 
Fergus Ewing: Experts at Scotland’s Rural College were invited to consider these findings and advised that the reductions observed were based on laboratory based tests only, using seaweeds which are not native to Scottish waters. We remain keen to see how this research progresses and shall continue to monitor developments in this emerging research area.

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