Incinerators 'may be needed in Suffolk'

LARGE-SCALE incinerators could be needed in Suffolk within the next 10 to 15 years to cope with the county's increasing mountain of waste.Incineration is one of the options which will be considered as landfill sites reach capacity, a new report from Suffolk's local authorities reveals.

By David Green

LARGE-SCALE incinerators could be needed in Suffolk within the next 10 to 15 years to cope with the county's increasing mountain of waste.

Incineration is one of the options which will be considered as landfill sites reach capacity, a new report from Suffolk's local authorities reveals.

However, plans for one or more of the plants are likely to be bitterly opposed by environment groups and communities downwind.


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Last night, a Friends of the Earth spokeswoman described incinerators as "monsters", claiming they led to pollution and health risks.

Likely locations for the plants would be the outskirts of urban concentrations such as Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill.

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The report says Suffolk's "rubbish" mountain is getting bigger despite recycling and composting initiatives.

About 296,000 tonnes of waste was produced in the county 1995/6 but by 2001/2 – the last year for which reliable figures are available – the amount had risen to 382,000 tonnes.

Over the same period the amount of waste recycled or composted rose from 23,000 tonnes to 71,000 tonnes, but still failed to keep pace with the increase in waste volumes.

Suffolk already has one large incinerator, a plant sited at Ipswich Hospital which burns clinical waste from throughout the county.

The prospect of one or more industrial style incinerators for the county's municipal waste is discussed in a new strategy document published for public consultation.

It suggests that a target be set for recycling and composting at least 60% of the county's waste by 2010 – up from the current figure of about 20%.

Officials believe that new separated waste collection schemes will push the figure to 35% by 2004/5.

However, even with enhanced rates of recycling and composting, the strategy recognises that it will not be possible to rely on landfill dumps for the remainder of the county's waste. The dumps are likely to be full by 2015.

"There is likely to be a requirement for the incineration or some other form of residual waste treatment in the medium term," says the strategy document.

The point at which this will be required and the scale and nature of the facilities that will be appropriate are far from certain, it says.

It also states: "In the absence of information about the quantity and composition of waste that will need to be dealt with, or the favoured technology for treatment, it is very difficult to determine the scale, nature or location of facilities that will be needed.

"It is likely that one or more facilities will need to come on stream before 2015 and that facilities will need to be near the main urban areas of the county."

If incinerators fail to win public acceptance, the councils will be forced to consider pioneering technologies such as gasification and biological treatments at currently uncertain cost and effectiveness.

Mary Edwards, East Anglian spokeswoman for Friends of the Earth, said any plans for incinerators would spark strong opposition.

"Apart from the pollution, the health risks and the high capital costs, the introduction of incinerators lead to a psychological change among local authorities.

"Once you've got these monsters you need to feed them and councils take their eyes of the real target – which is to minimise, recycle and compost as much as possible of our waste," she said.

Ms Edwards said the introduction of incinerators would be an acknowledgement of failure. It was an "out of sight, out of mind" concept which produced large volumes of contaminated ash, she said.

Joan Girling, a member of the county council's executive committee, said the new waste strategy encouraged recycling and composting of waste where possible and considered the kind of location where new facilities would be acceptable.

"It is important that we hear the views of as many Suffolk people as possible on these issues before the plan is finalised," she added.

In Essex, a campaign was launched several years ago against incineration plans as the county set out its blueprint for waste management.

Essex County Council eventually said it would resist incineration at all costs as protesters voiced their fears.

However, a High Court bid by campaigners to have possible incinerator sites scrapped from the Waste Plan all together failed.

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