ENVIRONMENTAL groups have warned the Government that plans to build or expand multi-million pound incinerators in Yorkshire will be a “huge waste of public money” because more recycling will mean less waste to burn.
New incinerators in Leeds, Allerton Park near Harrogate, South Yorkshire’s Dearne Valley and Bradford are all in the pipeline, with Leeds City Council signing a £460m contract with waste contractor Veolia only last Thursday.
However opponents of incineration have predicted that more material will be removed from the waste stream under Government recycling targets, leaving taxpayer-funded facilities starved of materials and eventually standing idle.
Friends of the Earth said plans for Sheffield’s existing incinerator, which will see more waste brought in from outside the city, demonstrated the “fundamental problem” with building more waste burning plants across the region.
Simon Bowens, the group’s Yorkshire campaigner, said the Sheffield site, which is also run by Veolia, was having to import more waste from neighbouring areas because growing recycling in the city had left less waste to burn.
He added: “Sheffield has recently moved from weekly to fortnightly bin collections and this has seen the level of recycling grow. This in turn means Veolia is having to ask for permission to bring in more waste from elsewhere.
“But this demonstrates the huge contradiction in the way that councils are dealing with waste. Their ambitious recycling targets just don’t fit together with their proposals for massive waste burners to deal with rubbish.
“Having to drag more waste in from neighbouring authorities means more lorries on the road, and as neighbouring areas increase recycling and build their own burners, authorities like Sheffield will no longer be able to feed the beast.
“It stands to reason that if existing incinerators are under-capacity the problem will get worse as more and more are built. If you are building them here, there and everywhere you can’t get enough waste to keep them running.”
Veolia will not be able to increase the amount of waste brought into its Sheffield facility without council approval because the amount of “out of city waste” is governed by a planning condition laid down when the site was built.
The company argues that its energy recovery facility, which generates electricity for the National Grid as well as heat which is supplied to public buildings, must be allowed to operate at its “optimum efficiency”.
Currently it takes 50,000 tonnes of its 225,000 tonnes a year waste capacity from outside Sheffield but its application to vary its planning permission seeks to increase this to 65,000 tonnes a year as waste levels from the city dwindle.
Nigel Williams, Veolia’s Sheffield director, said waste would be brought in from a “slightly bigger catchment area” taking in north Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire as well as other areas of South Yorkshire.
He added: “The planning application will not lead to any physical changes at the energy recovery facility or any increase to the existing capacity.
“Energy regulator Ofgem has recently highlighted a fear that the number of energy generating facilities in the country may be inadequate to meet increasing energy demands in the coming years.
“Facilities such as the one we have here in Sheffield recovers energy from waste that would otherwise be lost by going to landfill.
“The plant is pivotal to the city’s low carbon strategy and it is vital that it operates at optimum efficiency.”
Mr Bowens said Friends of the Earth would continue to campaign against increasing use of incinerators for waste despite claims that it produced energy which would otherwise be lost.
He added: “There are much more intelligent ways of dealing with waste than burning it.”