“What’s that massive building along the M5?”
Gloucestershire’s £613 million incinerator has been fully operational since January last year.
It takes all of Gloucestershire’s black bag rubbish, burns it and produces electricity for the National Grid. The waste includes things like sofas, fairy lights and mattresses.
Gloucestershire County Council say this is a greener way of dealing with household waste than just putting it in landfill, so that will reduce our carbon levels and save taxpayers over £100m over 25 years.
Throughout its operations there have been numerous road blockades and demonstrations from local protest groups including the action group Extinction Rebellion.
What is an incinerator?
An incinerator is a waste treatment method that involves the burning of materials that are known as “residual waste,” or waste that cannot be recycled or reused.
Javelin Park treats all household waste generated in Gloucestershire and collected by the District Councils or taken to Household Recycling Centres
The Gloucestershire facility has a processing capacity of 190,000 tonnes per year.
What’s the controversy?
The site operates under strict environmental rules. Although Public Health England say the emissions are not a significant risk to health. Protesters argue that more testing is needed, and that there are less expensive and more effective alternatives to the incinerator.
According to a study conducted by Zero Waste Europe, even the most advanced modern incinerators emit harmful pollutants.
Earlier this year, MPs rejected an amendment to the environment bill that would have required the UK’s particulate matter pollution targets to follow stricter WHO guidelines.
What are the arguments against?
Javelin Park has long been a source of contention between Gloucestershire County Council and Stroud District Council.
The Stroud leaders have long opposed the plant, claiming that by increasing recycling and waste reduction, they will ensure that as little waste as possible is sent from the district to the new facility.
Chloe Turner, Chair of the Stroud District Environment Committee, said: “Stroud Green Party have opposed the Javelin Park incinerator from the start, on carbon emission and health grounds.”
“Both incineration and landfill need to be a last resort, after waste has been minimised and recycling maximised, but of the two, incineration has the higher carbon cost according to research from UKWIN. Over its lifetime a typical waste incinerator built in 2020 is estimated to release the equivalent of around 1.6 million tonnes of CO₂ more than sending the same waste to landfill.”
Although the incinerator is located on Stroud District Council-owned land near M5 Junction 12. The county council as the waste disposal authority has control over waste issues in the area.
What are the arguments in favour?
With COP26 approaching, the impact of incinerators on the release of climate-warming gases into the atmosphere will be discussed.
The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents the UK waste industry, said: “Energy recovery facilities serve a vital public function and, in accordance with the waste hierarchy, divert millions of tonnes of UK waste from landfill every year.”
“Their operation is approved by Public Health England and permitted by the Environment Agency and each plant is only granted a permit if the Agency determines it is in an appropriate location; any and all appropriate risk mitigation is in place; and the plant can meet its permit conditions. In particular, very strict emissions limits are imposed upon them and performance against these limits is monitored closely by the Environment Agency.”
David Gray, Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning for Gloucestershire County Council said: “I believe that the Javelin Park facility is a great facility that helps Gloucestershire to manage waste disposal in a highly efficient manner, reducing the impact of waste on our environment and helping to keep the county green.”
“In my opinion the more we can cut down on waste in the first place, by reducing packaging, extending the lives of goods, the better. However, where we have waste it’s better to recycle as much of it as possible, which reduces our need to produce new base materials, including hydrocarbons.”
“Incineration is the next best option, at Javelin Park, the process is used to recover metals and produce energy which is sufficient to power 25,000 houses. This energy reduces our dependence on hydrocarbons as a source of heat and power.
“Landfill is the least attractive option, but even here GCC do our best to minimise the impact on the landscape and atmosphere using techniques like capping and gas recovery, which again can be used to generate energy.”
“We are also looking at finding commercial uses for the steam and heat produced as byproducts of the energy generation, which again would increase the value recovered from the waste and better capture CO2 emissions.”