Gloucestershire Energy from Waste – The Incinerator Planning Inquiry

A comment piece by Tom Jarman: November 2013

There is an alternative!

On the 21st March something quite remarkable happened. Against expectation, Gloucestershire’s Planning Committee stood up and was counted and took a decision on what they felt was right. Their unanimous decision to reject the UBB incinerator was a clear statement that the planning application was fundamentally wrong. Communities don’t want it and the Planning Committee doesn’t want it; who does want it?

They rejected a technology about which there is increasing discomfort and a growing notion that it is outdated. They rejected the sheer scale of the building. They rejected the enormous cost. They rejected the deal to commit Gloucestershire to a long-term project that no one wants, costs too much and does not leave a pleasant taste in the mouth when it comes to the responsible management of waste. Let’s face it: an incinerator is no incentive to reduce waste. If anything it encourages waste by those that need waste to burn.

However, Gloucestershire does have a waste issue. It does need a solution that deals with its waste in a responsible way; that offers real value and makes the County feel good about itself.

Now I can’t foresee what the Inspector will do, but the case against this scheme and this contract is compelling. What I do know is that a reason for granting approval should not be the lack of a viable alternative; because there is one. One that offers better value, is less visually intrusive, deals with more waste, costs less and does not incinerate valuable resources..

If Gloucestershire Council sees sense, it will demand an alternative to incinerator, from UBB perhaps, or rip up the contract and start again. It can be done and should be done. One possibility would be to consider the Biocentre plant we are planning for an adjacent site at Javelin Park. The Biocentre process has run successfully across the UK and uses advanced Mechanical Biological and Heat Treatment (MBHT), a high quality biomass fuel manufacturing process. Essentially this takes mixed waste and automatically sorts it to extract recyclates (wood, metals, plastics, glass etc). The organic residue is dried to create a high quality biomass fuel – a carbon friendly alternative to coal or woodchip.

By way of comparison, a two line plant at our Javelin Park site will take 240,000 tonnes of mixed waste per annum (25% bigger than the planned incinerator). Total project cost will be less than £25m (the incinerator contract is reported to be £500m). A Biocentre at Javelin Park would be less than 15m high. The incinerator will be significantly bigger, rising to 70m. Our proposal has no on-site incineration, and no significant exhaust. The biomass fuel has many uses, displacing coal or virgin wood chip for industrial and power users, for example it could be used to displace 9MW of fossil fuel at Dairy Crest in Stonehouse. This delivers very significant carbon footprint savings, vastly superior to the incinerator.

And to top it all, cost. The Biocentre process is likely to have a gate fee half of that committed to by Gloucestershire – we estimate Gloucestershire tax payers could save over £250m over the lifetime of the contract compared with incineration! And finally, as recycling is done at the facility, it can further reduce costs for kerbside collection and increase recycling rates.

It is not too late for us to demand that a better and cheaper process is chosen. Gloucestershire stands at a crossroads for an extremely important decision. I hope it results in a solution in which Gloucestershire can be proud.

Tom Jarman

Tom Jarman has lived in the area for 30 years and is a resident of Selsley Stroud. He is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer and Chairman of Biocentre Technology Ltd which owns an MBHT technology developed with Government support.

More information on Biocentre can be found at:

Biocentre Gloucestershire: Key Facts Panel:

  • 120,000 mixed waste input capacity (UBB 190,000). We believe this is entirely adequate for Gloucestershire’s waste needs
  • Producing 60,000 tonnes of biomass fuel
  • Ability within existing building envelope to double capacity
  • Fits in standard industrial shed, 14m eaves conforming to local planning outline (15.6m max height). 100,000 ft2
  • No on-site incineration
  • Substantially better Carbon footprint based on independent WRATE assessment. UBB claim -0.82 kt pa CO2 for 190,000 of waste, Biocentre has been independently assessed using the same framework at -40 kt CO2 pa (figure adjusted to match 190k tpa)
  • The plant automatically sorts and recycles. Collection costs can be reduced and householders can be confident that they are doing recycling, without the need for multiple bins / collections. The plant is also compatible with just the residuals collection, and will extract valuable recyclates and plastic before producing fuel from the non-recyclable fraction. Rejects needing to go to landfill are negligible. (Typically less than 5%)
  • £20m build cost
  • 30 on site skilled jobs (no manual sorting)Supportive of secondary / associated jobs. Also opportunity to build further employment through further processing of plastics etc
  • < 2 years build cycle, no major civil works
  • Contract term 10 years, flexible to future waste and recycling needs
  • Significantly lower gate fee for Gloucestershire possible, saving the County over £250M over the term of the contract

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