Waste treatment and disposal
Oxfordshire is good at recycling and composting with a recycling rate of over 60% in 2011/12. Avoiding waste is the best answer of all and Oxfordshire has the lowest figures for the amount of waste produced per person of any county. Oxfordshire Waste Partnership Joint Waste Strategy sets out how we'll improve on this current performance still further.
However, this will still leave a substantial amount of waste to be disposed of. Landfill sites emit methane gas which is over 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a greenhouse gas. The cost of landfill is also being driven by landfill tax. This is currently £64 for each tonne of waste we send to landfill and will increase by £8 per tonne every year until 2014 when it will reach £80. This means, as well as reducing, reusing and recycling, Oxfordshire also needs to treat waste rather than landfill it.
A tendering process was started in March 2007 and companies were invited to bid with proposals for treating Oxfordshire's household waste. Oxfordshire County Council, which leads the tendering process, stated that it wanted value for money and safe systems but did not specify which technology should be used.
In September 2009 following a rigorous procurement process, Viridor Waste Management offering an energy from waste incinerator at Ardley in north Oxfordshire was selected as the preferred bidder for the contract. Since then work continued to clarify and confirm the details of the contract and in July 2010 Oxfordshire County Council decided to award contract. The contract was signed on 10 March 2011.
Planning permission is required to build the facility. The Secretary of State granted planning permission in February 2011 following a public inquiry in July 2010. A second revised planning application was approved in October 2010. A legal challenge was made against the Secretary of State’s decision which was dismissed by the high court in July 2011 and permission to appeal was refused in November 2011.
Construction of the facility has started and will take just over three years. It is expected to be operational in 2014/15.
About energy from waste
Energy from waste (EfW) is the name given to the incineration of waste at very high temperatures and under controlled conditions to produce heat. The heat is used to produce electricity and can also be used to produce steam or hot water for industrial or domestic use. The amount of electricity produced depends on the size of the plant, and the production of electricity by burning waste offsets the use of fossil fuels.
The energy from waste facility being built by Viridor will:
- have capacity to treat 300,000 tonnes of waste per year – sufficient to treat all of Oxfordshire's residual municipal waste;
- divert at least 95% of Oxfordshire's residual municipal waste from landfill;
- generate enough electricity for about 38,000 homes;
- provide a value for money solution for managing our residual waste compared to continuing to landfill;
- provide up to about 200 jobs during construction and about 40 during operation.
Operation of the energy from waste incinerator will be permitted by the Environment Agency, which is responsible for regulating waste treatment plants. It has strict rules for such facilities that aim to protect the environment. The Environment Agency granted an environmental permit for the Ardley facility in September 2010.
The Health Protection Agency has a responsibility to protect human health. The HPA has issued a Position Statement on energy from waste.
For the latest information on residual waste treatment visit Oxfordshire County Council's pages on alternatives to landfill.