Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document
Meeting of the Executive held on 09/03/2004
POTENTIAL ROLE OF ESTECH
Summary & Purpose
The purpose of this report is to inform Members about a potentially exciting post-recycling waste disposal process which Members have had an opportunity to visit in the form of a scale model at Walsall. The purpose of the report is to seek a range of authorities necessary to progress this consideration.
Quality of Life Implications
Prevention and Control
There are likely to be several beneficial environmental impacts associated with the inclusion of the Estech system, or a similar mechanical biological treatment, in our waste management processes. In particular, it would be beneficial in terms of natural resource use by making good use of refuse as a resource to be recycled into other commodities. It could also be beneficial in terms of pollution prevention and control by reducing the amount of waste landfilled – landfill has numerous associated environmental problems including contaminated land and the production of the greenhouse gas methane. However, the environmental health impacts associated with the new and emerging technologies would have to be further investigated.
There could be beneficial impacts in terms of the aesthetic look of the local environment, particularly due to the unsightly nature of landfill. However, the five acre site required for Estech means that a large building will be required to house the technology, although the full-size version could be built in existing industrial areas thereby minimising visual and traffic-associated impacts.
There are unlikely to be any significant social or economic impacts of a positive or negative nature associated with the Estech process, although this is dependent on where the full-size version is sited.
These are covered in the body of the report.
1. At the Executive meeting in October 2003 it was agreed that Option g would be Waverley’s preferred option under the Surrey Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy. Along with further efforts to promote waste minimisation in households, thereby reducing the level of household waste arisings to be dealt with, option g consists of the use of a variety of measures to minimise the amount of waste that is landfilled in accordance with the waste hierarchy, including recycling (with a target of 36%), composting, anaerobic digestion, mechanical biological treatment, and thermal treatment. Further details of the various technologies and stages of the waste hierarchy are given in
(relevant pages from the Surrey Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy).
Surrey County Council Contract for Waste Disposal
2. Surrey County Council has entered into a PFI based contract for waste disposal for a term of 25 years predicated on a range of mass burn incineration facilities across the county. This clearly has a range of difficulties associated with it, which include political and social implications of mass burn incineration as well as the planning and environmental considerations of large scale plants.
Recycling Rates Derived by BVPIs
3. Government has set clearly defined targets for recycling through statutorily produced Best Value performance indicators. For Waverley, these targets, which are measured by weight as a fraction of the waste stream, are 24% by 2003/04 and 36% by 2005/06. The Secretary of State has a range of reserve powers enacted during the Best Value regime and has indicated to a range of authorities, including Waverley, that in the event of a failure to achieve these statutory targets, Government intervention may occur.
Cost of Current Recycling Services
4. The current year’s (2003/2004) estimated expenditure for our contractor on recycling is £692,000 which is an increase of some £400,000 on the previous year. This will be partially off-set by an increase in sales and credits of some £140,000, lifting the income from these sources to £365,000.
Options for the Future
5. There are two broad strategic options for moving the rate of recycling upwards significantly from 24%. They are:
The Green Waste Route
A concentration on green and other compostable and putrescible waste. These components of the waste stream account for between 20%-30% of the waste stream and the targeted effect of their removal should lead to achieving a 36% recycling rate.
The ‘New’ Technologies Route
The post recycling treatment plant would, in effect, receive the residual waste presented for collection and, through a series of processes, extract recyclables and produce reuseable end products resulting in little residual waste for ultimate disposal.
6. In the world of environmental reality, it would be a better thing for both green waste separation and post-recycling treatment to occur. The green waste fraction is able to be anaerobically digested and this is a source of energy providing, in effect, a free power source. However, the economics of a further round collecting green waste would need to be balanced against the environmental advantages.
7. A visit to Aldridge near Walsall to look at Estech’s 1/20th scale model enabled Members to look at a potentially interesting solution for dealing with residual waste and achieving recycling targets. This has been further investigated by your officers since the visit. The singular advantage to this process is that the residual waste stream is autoclaved as the first step of the process, removing concerns about the implications of the Animal Byproducts Order (ABO). Surrey County Council continues to express an interest in this process and is working with Waverley to advance its consideration.
8. In addition to those who were able to attend the Walsall visit and see the scale model of the Estech process it was felt desirable to enable a wider audience of interested parties to see the demonstration. To this end, your officers have effected an introduction between the owner of the former Dunsfold Aerodrome and the Chairman and Chief Executive of Estech. This has been done with the purpose of the scale model being housed in a hangar for a short term demonstration.
Consideration of Stakeholders
The Waste Disposal Authority
9. In the two-tier system of local government, the County Council has a clear and statutory responsibility for waste disposal. The Estech process straddles the divide between collection and disposal and the existing clarity would be tested by this process. However, what is absolutely clear is that the waste disposal authority would need to be a compliant partner in any scheme proposed by districts.
The Waste Collection Authority
10. Such a process as outlined in the Estech system (below) would fall in the category of ‘medium’ sized plant in that it would need at least 100,000 tonnes per year to operate. This raises two issues.
First, the draft Joint Municipal Waste Strategy favours smaller plants and there may be planning considerations in respect of a process which occupies a minimum of a 5 acre site; (some types of facility are not economically viable below a certain tonnage), and second, in order to feed such a plant, the residual waste emanations from three district councils would be needed, which in itself has a range of transport implications.
The Investor in the Process
11. The expenditure side of the Estech process is likely to involve some £15 million per plant in addition to any land acquisition costs and transportation infrastructure changes necessary. On the income side, the process clearly avoids landfill costs which currently are some £38 per tonne. This includes a Government tax called the Landfill Tax, which currently is £14 per tonne and is set to escalate to £30 per tonne. It would be necessary for any investor in the process to be satisfied about the income/expenditure profile. A significant financial consideration is that if landfill targets for biodegradable waste (including green waste, paper and cardboard) are not achieved, a European levied tax would be incurred which could be in the order of £200 per tonne.
The Residents of the Areas Covered
12. In order to make this work, it would be necessary to avoid a situation emerging whereby residents felt that a waste treatment plant such as the Estech system was sorting out all their environmental obligations for them, thereby absolving them of responsibility for their own waste. It would be necessary for the recycling, re-use and reduction arguments to be continued to be rolled out through appropriate public relations messages.
The Partner District Authorities
13. From an operational perspective, it would be sensible if three contiguous District Councils were partners and there are certain attractions to them all being in the same county. The range of potential partners for Waverley include Guildford and Mole Valley in Surrey, Horsham District Council and Chichester District Council in West Sussex and East Hants District Council and Hart District Council and Rushmoor Borough Council in Hampshire. However, this presumes Waverley being the centre of the three and in the circumstances that any of these District Councils is the centre, this configuration could shift.
The Estech System
14. The Estech process, as set out in the diagram below, first takes the remaining refuse (post-kerbside recycling) and sterilizes it at high temperatures in an autoclave. The waste is then passed through various processes to remove ferrous and non-ferrous metals and plastics – approximately 20% recycling is generally achieved at this stage. The majority of the remaining material is then converted into fibre (approximately 60% of the original refuse is converted into fibre), which then has the potential for a variety of further uses, including floor and wall tiles and road aggregate. The remaining 20% residue can then be landfilled or thermally treated. This, therefore, better enables household refuse to be treated as a ‘resource’ rather than a ‘waste’.
15. It is also possible to site an anaerobic digestion plant alongside the Estech system where separately collected green waste could be processed, producing both compost and energy to help to power the Estech plant, thereby making the plant more environmentally sustainable.
16. A full-size plant requires a site of approximately five acres, including a substantial building to house the technology. An existing industrial / warehouse type area of development with good transport access for refuse lorries would therefore be best suited to site a facility of this nature.
17. The Estech system, as with several other emerging types of waste management technology, is relatively untested. As a result, the scale model would help to provide an opportunity for independent assessment and environmental health assessments to be carried out. Further investigation is also needed into markets for the fibre.
18. Several officers and Members visited the Estech demonstration plant in Walsall in January 2004. The feedback from the trip was that it was extremely valuable to see the process in operation, affording the opportunity both to ask questions about the technology and to gain a better understanding of how it works in practice.
The Environmental Argument
19. Human Society has a poor waste management record. This has been exacerbated in recent years as the global population dramatically increases and as societies become more affluent; the growth in consumerism has had significant environmental consequences in terms of natural resource use and pollution. We do not, currently, make good use of our natural resources – an advanced waste management system including education on waste minimisation and the maximising of recycling and composting can help to redress the balance.
20. The sole driver for society tackling environmental change cannot be annual accounts. For too long, businesses, governments, including local government, have had an environmental approach which is based on income and expenditure without regard to environmental costs. The process outlined in this report has the potential to significantly ameliorate the environmental situation in Surrey into the future and has to be regarded as crossing horizons which are broader than annual budgets.
21. The Estech process provides interesting and exciting possibilities as a means of dealing with residual municipal waste. Officers would therefore like Members to endorse the necessary work to advance these considerations.
It is therefore recommended that officers be authorised to:
1. enter into negotiations with Surrey County Council to produce a range of proposals and fee bids for mechanical biological treatment and other related technologies for dealing with post-recycling municipal waste including anaerobic digestion;
2. work with the County Council and other local authorities to investigate further possible markets for the fibre;
3. negotiate a partnership arrangement involving the waste disposal authority and two other waste collection authorities; and
4. support an arrangement between the owner of Dunsfold Aerodrome and Estech to allow for the one-twentieth scale model of the Estech plant to be accommodated in a hangar for a period of up to one month.
There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.