Biocentre makes Submission to Commons Select Committee 20th May 2014

Waste Management in England

A Commons Select Committee will be convening over the summer, 2014 to look at Waste Management in England. The Committee invited evidence in a number of areas, including:

  • Whether current policy can achieve recycling rates in excess of 50%, and should England have higher targets
  • The role of business and households in waste recycling and recovery
  • The right balance of waste treatment technologies for England
  • Whether increasing the availability of incinerators and other thermal treatment would harm recycling rates
  • Whether there should be a ban on incineration

Written submissions can be found here

Biocentre Technology Ltd (BTL) has submitted detailed evidence to the committee. This shows that waste should be processed and fuel refined before any form of conversion to power. Appropriate treatment will ensure good efficiency and high levels of energy recovery, and to ensure recycling of valuable materials. BTL shows that for a typical “residual” waste stream such as that intended for the planned Gloucestershire incinerator some 50% can be usefully recycled as plastic, metals etc, and the balance can be refined into a dry, clean fuel which can displace fossil fuels. Incinerators are backward looking, inefficient and wasteful, for example the planned Gloucestershire incinerator will deliver just 14.5MW of electrical power, and generates heat which is simply wasted; this is less than 1/3rd the useful power output of an integrated process with MBHT fuel processing (such as that used by Biocentre) followed by use of the clean fuel where it is needed. BTL’s evidence also shows that in the Gloucestershire case just 37% of this electrical power comes from renewable sources, the balance comes from burning plastics which should be recycled. To class this as renewable energy is misleading and harmful as it encourages the waste of valuable resources.

The fuel produced by an MBHT process, such as Biocentre’s is high grade and can directly replace fossil fuels such as coal, or virgin biomass (eg imported wood chips). As such it can and should be regarded as a recyclate. Biocentre’s processing can achieve total recycling rates well above 90%, with minimum burden on households or businesses to source segregate. BTL therefore conclude that high recycling rates can be achieved and that burning of recylcates, in particular plastics, should be highly curtailed, at most only allowed in very efficient plants. Incinerators should demonstrate efficiencies in excess of 40%, this compares to around 20% for incinerators which do not use waste heat, such as the current proposals in Gloucestershire.

Biocentre’s conclusions include:

  • Ensure all waste is pre-treated (sorted and recylcates extracted) before incineration.
  • Implement strong measures to discourage the incineration of valuable material resource in waste, recognise the resource value of heavy metals present in most residual waste streams. Exclude aggregate from the definition of recycling unless it contains no significant higher grade material.
  • Apply landfill tax to waste treatment energy recovery which generates less than 40% of the energy in waste, certainly on new facilities. (Inefficient use of a valuable resource should not be subsidised!)
  • Set a maximum allowable contract length on public contracts for waste treatment. This is to prevent ‘locking in’ of waste treatment which delivers poor sustainability performance and is inflexible to changes in technology or recycling rates. A maximum of ten years is recommended.
  • An immediate stop of all further public procurement of incineration based waste treatment solutions that cannot demonstrate full adherence to sustainability criteria. In particular no incinerators should receive consent that do not include full pre-treatment (sorting and recycling) of input residual waste prior to incineration, or that achieve levels of energy efficiency below 40% (typically those that do not include use of waste heat with local industrial users of the heat)

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