Massive incinerator planned for Suffolk

HALF of Ipswich's homes could be powered by waste within the next decade if a controversial move to burn all rubbish goes ahead, The Evening Star can reveal today.

HALF of Ipswich's homes could be powered by waste within the next decade if a controversial move to burn all rubbish goes ahead, The Evening Star can reveal today.

The plan is the centrepiece of a half-billion pound proposal to deal with Suffolk's refuse over the next quarter century.

Suffolk is running out of space for landfill sites and new government legislation means the county council will be fined heavily if it continues to rely on putting rubbish into the ground after 2009.

The council has decided to incinerate all the rubbish that cannot be composted or recycled and use the heat to generate electricity for up to 28,000 homes.

A single incinerator would be built to handle all Suffolk's non-recyclable waste, estimated at about 200,000 tonnes a year.

The new incinerator should be in operation by the year 2013, a year before the last landfill site in the county could become full.

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The proposal is bound to meet with local opposition, but the Conservative administration at Endeavour House and senior officers believe that burning rubbish is the green option.

“We've looked very hard at all the options, and modern burning technology is very clean and is much better for the atmosphere than putting rubbish in the ground,” said environment spokesman Eddy Alcock.

Bryn Griffiths, assistant director for environment at the council, is leading the project to build the incinerator.

He said: “Even if we had unlimited space for landfill, which we don't, government rules say we have to cut this back over the next few years.

“Landfill is very bad for the environment because rotting material creates methane which is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

“We can try to collect the methane and burn it in small scale generators, as we do at Foxhall, but this doesn't catch it all and it remains very bad for the environment.

“Modern incinerators, with very effective filters, are much cleaner for the environment - their emissions are much less.”

Mr Alcock said many of the figures used by opponents of incinerators quoted pollution figures from old plants - many of which had since been closed. Modern incinerators were much cleaner.

The county council would not own the plant, it would invite private companies to tender to build and operate it.

Mr Alcock said: “We are looking to someone to run it on for a 25-year-period at a current cost of about £19 million a year - so the ultimate cost to the council would be in the region of £500 million.”

No location for the single huge incinerator has yet been identified, but while all the rubbish would be burned at a single location it would initially be collected at a number of sites around the county.

“We wouldn't want rubbish trucks from all over Suffolk going to a single site,” said Mr Griffiths. “The rubbish would be taken to a number of sites where it would be compacted and then taken in larger containers to the incinerator.”

The search for a site for the incinerator is likely to start next year, providing Suffolk County Council's cabinet approves the proposal on October 31.

Mr Alcock accepts it will probably have to be in a remote site well away from homes: “I don't think people will want this near them, even though there don't seem to be too many problems with Ipswich Hospital's incinerator.

“On the continent, in Germany and Scandinavia, where there is much more incineration there are combined heat and power plants with people living near the plant getting their heating and hot water supplied direct - but in this country I don't think anyone will want to live near enough to benefit from that.”

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