Frequently asked QuestionsPlans are being discussed for an innovative Energy from Waste (EfW) with Combined Heat and Power facility in Cardiff that would end Cardiff’s over- reliance on landfill as a means of dealing with its household waste.
If given the green light, the EfW facility would mean an investment of over £150 million, the creation of up to 50 permanent jobs plus additional contract / temporary employment and, alongside complementary waste prevention and recycling programmes, would place Cardiff at the forefront of waste management practice in the UK.
The scheme is being proposed by Viridor, one of the UK’s leading waste management companies, operating at over 240 locations throughout Wales and the UK.
What is an Energy from Waste (EfW) with Combined Heat and Power facility?
An EfW facility is a purpose-built building that treats residual waste by combustion to generate steam and electrical energy.
Residual waste is everyday waste from homes, businesses and industry that remains after all practical efforts have been made to extract recyclable and compostable material.
What will you do with the electricity and heat generated?
At full capacity, currently projected as being 350,000 tonnes per annum, the plant will produce a net output of approximately 30 Megawatts (MW) per annum of electricity which will be fed into the National Grid. This is enough electricity to serve approximately 58,700 households in Cardiff.
As part of the proposed planning submission, Viridor is developing a heat plan. This will develop and implement ideas for using excess heat from the facility, thus further improving the energy efficiency of the plant. Businesses situated on Trident Park could benefit from this excess heat, helping to make Trident Park a model of industrial sustainability. It is widely recognised that the use of heat could help to support economic development in the area.
What is the link between this proposed facility and Project Gwyrdd?
The Welsh Assembly Government has been strongly urging local authorities to work together to achieve regional solutions to meet their long term waste management needs. Cardiff and its neighbouring authorities have formed a sub regional partnership known as Project Gwyrdd.
The partnership is working to provide a long term solution for the treatment and disposal of residual wastes. The aim is to provide a sustainable waste management alternative to the historic practise of landfilling and to ensure compliance with the legislation now regulating the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste. The partnership will shortly be undertaking a formal procurement exercise seeking proposals from the waste management industry.
Viridor with the proposed development at Trident Park considers that it would be well placed to respond to the anticipated procurement process with a high technology solution offering maximum sustainability.
What is the location of the proposed facility?
The plant will be situated on Trident Park, the former Nippon Electric Glass (NEG) site in Cardiff, between Ocean Way and the docks.
Why has this location been chosen? Surely there are better sites?
Trident Park is a perfect location for this type of facility. Factors such as environmental impact, the potential for using surplus heat for industry, neighbouring land use and existing infrastructure were key in the decision to select this site.
Will the proposed EfW facility accept hazardous or clinical wastes?
No it will not. It will only process residual non-hazardous wastes, comprising around 350,000 tonnes a year. All waste management facilities in Wales are highly regulated by the Environment Agency (EA). The operation of the EfW facility would be subject to the granting of an Environmental Permit, which would set down stringent conditions for operating. This would be monitored not only by Viridor, through its own detailed internal systems, but also by the EA.
Will local residents be affected by noise from the site?
It is anticipated that as all waste handling and processing will take place in a fully enclosed and sound-proofed building, noise levels will be kept to a minimum and within acceptable limits. As part of the Environmental Assessment process, a detailed noise study is being undertaken. There would also be strict noise level limits set as part of the Environmental Permit.
Will this bring more traffic to the area?
There will be some increase in road traffic coming to the Trident Park site. Initial assessments suggest that the road network is suitable for the traffic volumes envisaged. Most traffic will use off-peak hours during the working day and routing agreements can be implemented. This is being considered as part of a detailed highways study, which will form part of the Environmental Statement.
Wouldn’t rail be a better solution to bringing waste onto the site?
Discussions have taken place with Network Rail but it would be unfeasible to use rail for this facility for a number of logistical and technical reasons.
Will it be smelly?
All waste will be delivered in enclosed or sheeted lorries and unloaded within the waste reception building prior to loading into the combustion process. As a consequence of active management of the air within the reception building and the provision of odour control if required, odours will not be perceptible outside of the facility. Again, the control of odours will form part of the Environmental Permit.
Will the EfW be harmful to air quality in the area?
The gas scrubbing technology employed in modern EfW plants is extremely effective. The emissions from the plant would be strictly regulated by the Environment Agency and the entire treatment process is designed to meet the requirements not only of local air quality standards but also of the European Waste Incineration Directive (WID). The WID sets very low limits for emissions to air from such facilities, to ensure the protection of human health and the local environment.
What actually comes out of the chimney?
The majority of the emissions from the chimney are made up of carbon dioxide and water. The remainder is extremely low levels of other substances. The EC Waste Incineration Directive sets very stringent limits to be met. As EfW technology has improved significantly over recent years, EfW facilities not only meet these enacting standards, but achieve much lower emission limits.
The potential impact of emissions has been tested time and time again, not only in the planning arena, but through authorisations being granted by the regulators for the development of EfW facilities in urban environments, recent UK examples being:
- SELCHP south east London – operational since 1998
- Testwood, Portsmouth - operational since 2005 & Basingstoke, Hampshire – operational since 2003
- Sheffield – operational 2006
- Lakeside, Slough – operational 2009
Dioxins are emitted by a number of sources such as bonfires, jet engines, various industrial processes, and open fires in the home. EfW facilities effectively prevent the production and release of dioxins and are only allowed to operate at levels equivalent to the existing background levels in urban soils.
The EC Waste Incineration Directive sets very stringent limits to be met. The potential impact of emissions has been tested time and time again, not only in the planning arena, but through authorisations being granted by the regulators for the development of EfW facilities in urban environments.
On November 5th, the dioxins emitted from the bonfires and fireworks lit are greater than the total annual dioxin emissions for all the EfW plants in the UK.
John Ferguson, a spokesman from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), states “it would take a modern incinerator 120 years to emit as much dioxin as the Millennium firework display did in London.”
Does Viridor have a good environmental track record?
Yes. The company measures the impact of its operations on the environment and has invested heavily in environmental protection measures. Its Environmental Policy and Annual Corporate Responsibility Report are available to download at www.viridor-waste.co.uk. It was the first company in the UK waste industry to introduce an exemplary Environmental Management System in the early 1990s and now implements an integrated Business Management System incorporating the highest available quality, environmental and health and safety management standards.
What will the facility look like?
The plant will be built on the site of the former Nippon Electrical Glass factory between Ocean Way and the Docks. An architectural team is currently working on the design which will be the best of its kind and appropriate to the location. It will be roughly the same height as the former NEG buildings, and the chimney approximately the same size as the one currently on site. All waste handling and processing will take place inside the building.
Why build it this way? Couldn’t it have been built underground?
Underground design was not deemed appropriate for this facility for a number of reasons – a high water table, existing industrial facilities nearby and the added costs associated with building subterranean facilities. Plus, we feel the proposed plant represents a modern, iconic building that compliments existing architecture in the Cardiff Bay area.
Is converting waste into energy a poor use of Earth’s limited resources? Won’t this facility hamper recycling efforts in the future?
No. This is a common claim made against waste treatment facilities. In fact the proposal will be complementary to and will not compromise the region’s waste prevention, recycling and composting programmes. Case studies from European countries with the highest levels of recycling demonstrate complementary higher levels of EfW for residues to further improve resource efficiency. The proposed facility will only take residual waste that cannot be recycled or composted. Value will be recovered from waste that would otherwise be landfilled.
In October, kerb-side collection is changing in Cardiff and food waste can be collected with garden waste, and then recycled. Therefore, is an incinerator needed?
The proposal will be complementary to and will not compromise the region’s waste prevention, recycling and composting programmes. The proposed facility will only take residual waste that cannot be recycled or composted. Value will be recovered from waste that would otherwise be landfilled.
Why Energy from Waste (EfW)?
Viridor has undertaken extensive research into waste treatment technologies. EfW has the following advantages:
- There are 20 plants already operating in the UK; and numerous others throughout Europe and beyond. Therefore it is a proven and robust technology.
- The facilities can be developed to cater for a range of waste volumes
- In Europe it has been demonstrated that they do not hinder the maximisation of recycling and composting e.g. Denmark, Austria, Sweden, etc.
- They provide a safe and efficient means of treating residual waste.
- Electricity is produced which is fed into the National Grid, and heat can potentially be supplied to the local area to enhance economic development.
- EfW helps local authorities in diverting residual waste from landfill and meeting the Landfill Directive diversion targets whilst offsetting the significant economic impact of increasing Landfill Tax
The facility will be using proven technology which comes with an excellent safety record. As part of the design process, discussions have taken place with a Fire Safety Consultant to minimise fire risk. Plus, the facility will be built to stringent and relevant safety requirements.
How is permission gained?
The facility will need planning permission before construction can start. Detailed assessments of all environmental issues are currently being prepared by SLR Consulting Limited, and will be submitted to Cardiff Council as part of the planning application. This will be accompanied by an Environmental Statement. The Council will decide whether the scheme can go ahead. Before the facility can operate, an Environmental Permit will also need to be issued by the Environment Agency.
When will the facility be built, commence operation, and how long will it be operating?
This depends on how long it takes for the planning and Environmental Permit applications to be determined. It is hoped to commence construction of the facility in the early part of 2010. With a three year build programme, operation of the plant could commence in 2013, with a projected operational life of 25 years.
What is the carbon footprint of the EfW plant?
A detailed study is being undertaken into the carbon footprint of the facility. Although this is yet to be concluded, there are major benefits arising as follows:
- The EfW plant will divert a significant volume of waste away from landfill. Landfill sites generate methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.
- The electricity generated will offset the emission of 43,500 tonnes of Carbon per annum which would otherwise be emitted through fossil fuel fired electricity generation.
- Use of the excess heat will further improve the energy efficiency of the plant, which reduces its carbon footprint further.
- The proposed plant performs well when compared to the carbon footprint of other available waste management options and technologies, as well as being a significant improvement on current practice.