Fact Sheet 5: Plan B

Plan B: Resource Conservation v Resource Destruction: an overview of an alternative plan to deal with NYCC residual waste, presented by Dr Paul Connett, 13th September 2010

Dr Connett* is renowned in the waste world as an expert on the utilisation of waste as a resource. His programmes and proposals view waste as a catalyst to inspire communities and authorities to view the reduction, re-use and recycling of waste as a stimulus to prosper both socially and economically.

Dr Connett reviewed the NYCC/Amey Cespa proposal for the treatment of residual waste. All North Yorkshire County Councillors and York City councillors were invited. This is a summary of his proposals and conclusions.

The NYCC/Amey Cespa Plan (A)

  • Increase recycling in NYCC and York to 45% of domestic waste by 2020.
  • Encourage home composting.
  • Promote Re-use.
  • To treat the waste remaining by Mechanical Treatment to:
    • Separate out the organics for Anaerobic Digestion (18%)
    • Separate out the recyclables (9%)
    • Incinerate the remainder (73%)

To implement Plan A, NYCC/Amey Cespa propose to build a waste infrastructure that will include a Mechanical Treatment plant, an Anaerobic Digester, an Incinerator with Energy from Waste Technology and a Bottom Ash Processing plant.

The Dr Connett Plan (B)

  • Increase recycling in NYCC and York to 70%+ of domestic waste by 2020.
  • Encourage home composting.
  • Increase Re-use.
  • Introduce kitchen waste collections.
  • Introduce waste reduction initiatives.
  • To implement Plan B it is proposed to build a waste infrastructure that will include:
    • An Anaerobic Digester that will receive organic feedstock from kitchen waste collections across the county that could remove up to 40% of residual waste for Anaerobic Digestion. This separate organic feedstock will not need to be mechanically treated as it will be contaminant free.
    • A Re-use and Repair Centre to provide training and employment opportunities as well as an outlet for building materials, furniture, white goods and appliances.
    • A Materials Recovery Facility that will recover the maximum amount of recyclable material through the use of the latest selection technology as well the skill of the operators. The MRF will select material with the minimum of contaminants as the organic fraction has already been removed through separate kitchen waste collections. The MRF will be able to react to new demands in the marketplace and the degree of selection and sorting of materials will command a higher value in the marketplace.
    • Waste Reduction incentives that will penalise those who produce the most waste and reward those who recycle the most waste. These penalties can either be designed into the scheme through the provision of small residual waste containers and large recycling containers or they can be economic with financial penalties or rewards.
    • A Research facility to develop new recycling technologies that will allow for the recycling of materials that currently have no outlet through the design of new products and materials. The facility will also provide feedback to manufacturers that they need, for example, to change their packaging if there is no outlet for that material.
    • Temporary landfill for the small amount of residual waste that currently cannot be recycled or recovered.

Conclusions

  1. Plan A is in the corporate interest of a multi-national business; Plan B is in the public interest (and the planet’s interest!)
  2. There is a need to shift the profit from waste disposal to genuine resource recovery.
  3. Plan A is expensive, inefficient, produces few jobs and will be unpopular. Plan B is economically sustainable, conserves energy, conserves resources, produces jobs and will be popular.
  4. Plan B attempts to find the maximum amount of resource recovery while Plan A attempts to destroy resources. Incineration has a negative effect on recycling, stifles innovation and is dangerous.
  5. In Plan B four times the amount of energy that is produced by incineration is saved by recycling, re-use and AD.
  6. Incineration in Plan A is inefficient, for every 4 tonnes of waste burned 1 tonne of ash is produced and of this 10% is toxic fly ash.
  7. Incineration in Plan A produces toxic air emissions that can be a lethal health risk.
  8. Finally, Dr Connett concludes; “even if we made incineration safe we would never make it sensible. It simply does not make sense to spend so much money destroying resources we should be sharing with the future.”

    *Dr Paul Connett has made over 2,000 presentations on waste in 52 countries and recently addressed the Sustainable Development Division of the United Nations.

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