Incinerator - a burning issue

Sir – It is clear New Barnfield in South Hatfield would be a totally inappropriate place to build an incinerator. But setting aside the arguments about specific sites, I am concerned that some people might be wooed by the idea of an incinerator. It seems

Sir - It is clear New Barnfield in South Hatfield would be a totally inappropriate place to build an incinerator. But setting aside the arguments about specific sites, I am concerned that some people might be wooed by the idea of an incinerator. It seems a quick and easy fix to the problems of where and how to dispose of our waste now that landfill sites are almost full. Let's look at some of the pros and cons:

For, it is argued that:

not so much landfill space is needed.

Incinerators are cost effective.

They offer safe disposal of toxic pollutants.

They produce energy by burning waste.

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Some metals such can be reclaimed.

Residues can be used for road-building.

Against incinerator...

If expansion occurs as predicted, you are very likely to be in the vicinity of one wherever you are.

Toxic gases can escape, including dioxins said to cause cancer and lower fertility in males.

Large quantities of gases, including carbon dioxide, are emitted.

Ash contains poisonous compounds containing heavy metals which has to be disposed of.

Residues may account for 25 per cent of the original waste, and if these are used for road construction, they pose a definite risk, especially where water allows leaching into the ground.

Incineration discourages minimisation and recycling - to be viable, incinerators have to burn a certain amount so the temptation will always be to feed the incinerator rather than re-using or expanding recycling.

Incinerators cost a huge amount to build and run, which could be spent on on improving recycling.

Mechanical and biological treatment (MBT) plants are a good alternative to incinerators. There are about 50 in Germany and there is very little opposition to them.

Anaerobic digestion (part of the process of an MBT plant) produces methane which can provide energy for the plant and possibly for export to the grid.

I hope the county council will look at these arguments and do more research on possible alternatives to incineration, before arriving at a decision on Hertfordshire's waste management strategy.

Jill Weston, Welwyn Hatfield

Green Party.

SIR - I am writing in response to the article in last week's paper (April 15), which alleged that the decision to build a new waste treatment facility on county council-owned land at New Barnfield site is 'a done deal'.

The environmental assessment now under way is needed so we can reach a view on future use of the land.

This does not mean a waste treatment plant will be built there.

The site is located within the area between south Hatfield and north Welham Green that has been suggested in the borough council's Local Development Framework as a location that has 'potential for major growth'.

Whatever the land is eventually used for, any proposals will go through a stringent planning process, including public consultation.

I would like to reiterate that New Barnfield being identified as a 'reference site' does not mean that it will definitely be used for an energy from waste facility.

We are inviting potential suppliers to tender for a long-term [waste management] solution for Hertfordshire.

We fully expect a variety of proposals to come forward, involving a range of technologies at various sites.

We will assess these proposals and select a solution which makes environmental and economic sense for Hertfordshire's tax payers.

Richard Brown,

Hertfordshire County Council.

SIR - Waste incineration is not the right option!

The people who have voted in favour of a municipal waste incinerator at New Barnfield should be given a chance to vote again on this issue once they are in possession of all the facts. The Herts WasteAware site does not inform them that incineration (even with energy recovery)...

l Perpetuates climate change by releasing the carbon trapped in the plastics and organic matter which is burnt. Recycling and waste minimisation saves four times more greenhouse gas emissions than incineration with 'energy recovery'.

l Destroys valuable materials that could be recycled into new products. Recycling saves far more energy than is created by burning waste as it avoids having to make products from virgin materials.

l Doesn't provide an incentive for reducing waste, as incinerators need a minimum amount of rubbish to operate efficiently. Contracts for incinerators are long-term, requiring waste for 20 - 30 years, they are very inflexible to changing components and quantity of the waste stream.

l Causes pollution: incinerators produce dirty energy (plastic is a fossil fuel). There are health concerns associated with both air emissions from incinerators and the solid waste (ash) that is produced.

l Is high cost, because of the need to reduce toxic emissions to the environment.

People need to know that there are lower cost more environmentally and economically beneficial alternatives.

Many places around the world are adopting a strategy aiming for eventual zero waste (nothing to landfill or incineration) by 2020 eg, Canberra, most of New Zealand, San Francisco, Toronto, Halifax Nova Scotia, Kamikatsu Japan, Bath and NE Somerset in the UK.

Mechanical biological treatment with anaerobic digestion plants produce clean energy by burning the methane. Small ones could be sited around the county to reduce lorry movements and transport costs, and would deal with un-recycled waste until higher rates of recycling are achieved and items in the waste stream that can not be re-used or recycled are phased out.

Let us make Hertfordshire a leader not a follower in the waste management field by setting an example of true sustainability.

David Ashton, Herts WithOutWaste.