Energy From Waste

I understand why local residents may have concerns about the proposal and I want to ensure that the proposed plant, should it go ahead, operates to the highest environmental standards and will not affect people’s health.

This proposal has been driven by the Council’s aim of finding an alternative to landfill, which releases large amounts of greenhouse gases which are a major driver of climate change. This proposal does have cross-party support as I am aware that a recent Labour motion to Merton Council, a member of South London Waste Partnership, welcomed the proposed ERF.

It is worth noting that should the development go ahead it will mean:

  • The creation of a new regional park between Mitcham and Beddington will still be progressed
  • A reduction in the potential maximum tonnage of refuse dealt with at the Beddington site from 400,000 tonnes to 275,000 tonnes per year
  • The provision of heat and 26 megawatts of electricity for 30,000 homes
  • Savings of £200m over 25 years (the current landfill costs £4.5m a year, with projected increases of £410k each year)
  • A reduction in carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere of 128,000 tonnes a year
  • The establishment of a community fund for local community projects with an initial payment of £250,000 followed by annual payments of £15,000 during the operational period of the ERF and an additional lump sum of £100,000 to be made in 2024.

Currently the Beddington landfill has a licence to deal with 400,000 tonnes of waste per year. The proposed plant would have a licence to deal with 275,000 tonnes of waste. This means there will be fewer lorry movements associated with the ERF than if the open landfill were operating at full capacity.

In addition, should the development go ahead, construction vehicles will have to access the site using Coomber Way. This will be enforced using GPS and CCTV and reduce site traffic on Hilliers Lane. I have also asked Sutton Council to investigate whether such restrictions could be put in place for any refuse vehicle accessing the site in the future.

Across the four South West London boroughs, residents create around 200,000 tonnes of waste which currently goes to landfill. The additional 75,000 tonnes of waste the plant could deal with would come from the commercial sector. Whilst Viridor cannot guarantee that this waste will come just from the four boroughs, given the large amount of commercial waste produced locally, it is highly likely that waste would be disposed of in the nearest waste facility (to keep transport costs to a minimum).

Given the experiences of the 50’s and 60’s with incinerators, I can appreciate why people have concerns about the health impact of energy recovery facilities. However, research on more recent facilities states that there is not enough evidence to suggest that incineration, when carried out using the most up to date technology, operating at the highest temperature, negatively affects human health.

In 2009 the Committee on the Carcinogencity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and Environment reviewed seven studies on cancer incidence near municipal solid waste incinerators and concluded that past studies which associated certain types of cancer to living near incinerators cannot apply to current ERFs (http://bit.ly/13dQwBI).

In 2006, The Health Protection Agency calculated particulate matter pollution (PM10) from incineration was 0.03% of the total compared with 27% and 25% for traffic and industry respectively. The Health Protection Agency argued that this low proportion was also found at a local level. This suggests tackling emissions from traffic and industry may lead to greater reductions in PM10 levels (http://bit.ly/11cO2Cj).

Sutton Council’s Planning Department has secured the services of a specialist in ERF emissions to review Viridor’s proposal. If Viridor are unable to satisfy the Council’s planning committee that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect human health, then the proposal will not go ahead.

I have visited the landfill site at Beddington Lane and spoke to representatives from Viridor. I stressed the importance of addressing the health and traffic concerns of local residents and emphasised that Viridor should go beyond what they are required to do from an emissions point of view and establish the local park as quickly as possible.

I was reassured by Viridor’s commitment to monitoring emissions from the ERF. In addition to the onsite emissions monitoring, the facility will be closely monitored by the Environment Agency, through comparison of emissions with industry best practice to ensure that it meets the strict emission criteria set out in the European Union’s Waste Incineration Directive. There will also be a process of assessment by scientific experts (from the Health Protection Agency) and advice from specialist bodies (Food Standards Agency, Local Health Board). I am also told that Viridor will be making a £35,000 contribution towards Sutton Council’s air quality monitoring.

It is worth noting that choosing an ERF will not affect South London Waste Partnership’s commitment to continued waste reduction and recycling. Viridor already recycles over 1m tonnes a year and the contract for the ERF will incentivise continued waste reduction and recycling by allowing for declining tonnage of waste to be put through the facility in future years.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.