Not All Rubbish Goes to LandfillHolly By Heart
By Holly by Heart
In September, I visited the incinerator in Basingstoke (Chineham). The incinerator is operated by Veolia and is actually an Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) meaning that the waste (from our black bins) is burnt at very high temperatures to generate electricity. The ERF in Chineham deals with 100,000 tonnes of waste per year and generates enough electricity to power 11,000 homes. Because we have three incinerators in Hampshire (one in Portsmouth and one near Southampton), Hampshire has not sent any household waste to landfill since 2005! According to Veolia, the ERFs reduce the use of fossil fuels, cut emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce dependence on landfill and they operate within the highest standards of environmental care, meeting or exceeding emissions legislation. Any household waste that isn’t recycled in Hampshire will be disposed of in this way.
To be honest, visiting the incinerator; seeing how clean the emissions are, has been such a relief. I was fretting over every single item I put into the bin – thinking how the packet that the dishwasher tablets came in would outlast my children’s children! I know that incinerators aren’t that popular amongst recycling enthusiasts, they often believe that we should be capable of recycling everything, but this isn’t possible at the moment. It’s like the phrase ‘you can’t get there from here’ – people won’t change overnight, it’s not an A to B process, it’s a to Z; we need to deal with ALL waste NOW, then increase recycling (making sure that there are markets set up to buy the recycled materials – if it’s not cost effective, it will never happen). Whilst at the same time, we need to be educating everyone to recycle more, buy less, waste less, buy better and reuse where we can. Recycling alone isn’t the solution to the massive waste problem we are facing, its part of it. Not everything can be recycled and most things can only be recycled once.
Recently where I live, the mixed plastic bank (for trays, yoghurt carton and Tetra packs) was removed as there is reduced demand for this type of plastic to be recycled. There was outcry from the local community. I looked into the issue and found that only a small proportion of the plastics received in the recycling bank were actually being recycled. The cartons were removed for recycling and the mixed plastics went for onward reprocessing to a Plastics Recovery Facility in Rainham, Essex. At the moment there are no sustainable markets in the UK for mixed plastics. The HDPE and PET (most valuable fractions) were removed from the mixed plastics stream but these made up about 5% of the overall material volume. The rest tended to go for incineration or abroad at a huge cost. Hard plastics are difficult to recycle and costly to recycle. They are normally made from a cocktail of polymer types making them extremely low value. It is more economically (and environmentally) friendly to recover the potential energy stored within the material through the incineration process as it has a very high calorific value. Within Hampshire, mixed plastics are incinerated with energy recovery.
I was receiving so many messages about recycling, (I’m well known locally as the person to talk to about things like this) so that I put this information together for the parish council. I think people rely on recycling as a guilt free way to remove waste (particularly) plastic from their homes. Knowing that some recycling isn’t actually recycled is heart breaking but having it incinerated is a far better alternative than it being sent abroad where it possibly won’t be recycled or disposed of responsibly at all.
(Parts of this blog post were first printed in News & Views for Overton Parish Council)
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