CalaChem Energy from Waste proposal

CalaChem are currently engaged in a community consultation to share their plans for a £150 million energy from waste plant at their site in Grangemouth1 . The new plant will replace an existing fossil fuel burning combined heat and power plant. As it is just at the consultation stage the level of information isn't as detailed as required at the planning stage and does not include an environmental impact assessment. The company hopes to start construction next spring and that the facility will be fully operational in 2018.

CalChem claim the new plant, “will help Scotland meet it’s zero waste targets because we will be burning waste rather than having it go to landfill”.2  Energy to waste is supported in principle by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, SEPA, but burning waste is clearly not the best option within the mix of generating less waste and recycling more. Energy from waste is not a renewable energy as it relies on the flammable fossil fuels within the the RDF to fire up the incinerator to create the heat to generate the heat and electricity. SEPA’s explanation of Energy from waste facilities  explain that, like all other combustable plants burning solid or liquid fuels, the incineration process can produce emissions in the form of:

acid gases, particulates, dioxins and heavy metals to air;

Energy from waste incinerators are industrial installations that burn the waste and rubbish that we throw out with our bins everyday. Incinerators can make electricity or produce heat and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. These incinerators are often called ‘Energy- from-Waste’ or ‘Waste-to-Energy’ plants.

Possible issues associated with ‘Energy from Waste’ facilities:
  • They destroy valuable resources that we should be preserving and recycling. Reducing the rubbish we make and recycling more is a better plan of action for Scotland.
  • They can pollute our air and can be a danger to our health.
  • They create toxic ash from the burnt rubbish that needs landfilled.
  • They increase the number of trucks on local roads- CalaChem state 40 lorries a day.
  • They add to climate change by releasing carbon from waste.
  • They can lead to less recycling because paper and plastic are needed to keep incinerators burning.
  • They waste energy in other sectors. Recycling plastic can save five times more energy  compared with incineration.
  • They create fewer jobs than recycling.

2 Falkirk Herald June 18, 2015

Air Pollution
Some of the substances released can cause or worsen breathing problems, for example nitrogen oxides (NOx gases), sulphur oxides (SOx gases), and small dust particles called particulates (PM10 and PM2.5). Other substances like heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are known to have various ill effects on human health. Many of these substances appear to be safe for humans at low concentrations. It’s more difficult however to be sure that there is no danger in the long-term, for example over years or decades of low concentrations.

The CalaChem facility is located within the Grangemouth Air Quality Management Zone
As well as the Petrochemical factories within this area, there is the ASDA distribution centre on the other side of Earl’s Road A904. The proposals for this plant requires 40 lorries of refuse derived fuel (RDF) a day to feed the incinerator.

Incinerators in the past, especially the scandal of the RECHEM incinerator in Bonny bridge  in the 1980’s, have had a negative impact on the health of the local residents. In recent years tough laws from the EU have forced incinerators to clean up but they still release toxic substances. 

More recently, Scotgen (Dumfries) Limited’s Dargavel energy-from-waste plant, in the Scottish Borders, was subject to numerous enforcement notices from the Scottish Environmental Protection agency. The first following multiple breaches of its pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit. In June 2012, the plant was shut down after one of its two waste lines breached emission limit values (ELV) for dioxins and furans, and SEPA demanded improvements were put in place. The second after a fire in July resulted in 800 tonnes of odorous waste being left on the site. 

Dioxins are a group of highly toxic, cancer-causing chemicals for which there is no safe concentration. It’s thought small amounts of dioxins are created as the gas from burnt waste cools. Dioxins are bio-accumulative which means they concentrate in fatty tissues. Because humans are at the top of the food-chain we’re likely to receive the highest dose of dioxins.

Stirling Council refused planing permission for an energy from waste plant in Throsk in 2012. One of the main concerns was the location in a small business park without sufficient infrastructure. In his appeal determination the Scottish Government reporter concluded: “The proposed waste to energy facility would be consistent with development plan allocation of the site and general thrust of national waste management policies. However, this is the wrong site for a waste to energy facility, principally due to its proximity to houses and a play area. In the absence of full details of the siting, design, height and layout of the buildings and chimney and of the site layout, it is not possible to properly assess the impact on nearby residents.

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