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Could We Make The Incinerator Redundant?

To a packed audience at the Old Town Hall in Stroud yesterday, entrepreneur Tom Jarman presented a plan that could potentially kill off GCC’s misguided Javelin Park incinerator project.

Tom is a director at Biocentre, a company specialising in the Mechanical, Biological and Heat Treatment of waste (MBHT). He explained how, using established and proven technology, it is now possible to automatically and reliably separate “green and black bag” waste, removing almost all the recyclates and turning most of the rest into high-grade, low-toxicity fuel pellets that can then be burned to create useful energy.

The proposal, which is backed by GlosVAIN and promoted through a 38 degrees campaign spearheaded by Jojo Mehta, is to build a “Resource Recovery, Refining and Recycling Centre” (R4C) at Javelin Park next to the proposed incinerator site. Tom has secured a free-of-charge community operating licence for such a plant, and is confident he can get financial backing to build it. This plant would be a community-backed, not-for-profit enterprise which could massively undercut the “gate fees” which the incinerator would have to charge, while improving our recycling rates: taking advantage of modern technology rather than the “dinosour” 1960s-style solution of just burning everything. The build costs of this plant, with a similar capacity to the incinerator, would be around one tenth that of the incinerator, and the lower running costs would result in massive annual savings for the taxpayer: money that could be usefully spent on our public services.

If several of Gloucestershire’s District Councils were persuaded to use this R4C facility, then 95% of their waste streams would be removed (as recyclates and bio-fuel) leaving only 5% to pass on to the County Council. This would make the County Council’s incinerator plans so obviously un-economic, they would likely collapse (the banks funding the incinerator construction would be likely to pull out).

The plan would be a win-win, providing massive savings to the taxpayer, avoiding the visual and health implications of the incinerator, and above all, treating our waste stream as a resource instead of a problem. After all, when we talk about “throwing things away”, we have to remember, in the end, there is no “away”!

The difficulties, of course, will come down to politics, and possibly legal wranglings. At present the cost of dealing with black bag waste is borne by the County and not the District: so, having failed to persuade GCC to adopt such a system (thanks to a cumbersome and unfit-for-purpose bidding system, coupled with pig-headedness on the part of the administration) the District Councils would need to be persuaded to take on the County Council’s job. This can presumably only be done by ensuring that the proposal is cost-neutral (or close to it); which means ensuring that any gate fees are offset by corresponding financial gains from improved recycling rates.

The County Council is likely to fight dirty on this: they have already been presenting legal arguments which independent consultants have pronounced as false but which could be enough to scare District Councils off the plan. For this reason, we need a really powerful campaign of community backing behind this plan, to convince our councillors that it’s what we, their electorate, want and deserve. Jojo has made a good start.

Tom Jarman's Presentation

Tom Jarman, and Sue Oppenheimer of GlosVAIN, at yesterdays meeting