Saturday, 9 June 2018

Politics before the Environment - higher nitrogen dioxide output, doubling dioxin emissions to save 4p a week

On Tuesday Barnet Conservatives voted to end the brown bin food waste collections in Barnet. Instead people will now be required to throw their food waste in with general refuse and it will be burned in an incinerator at Edmonton. The reason for this retrograde step is that it will allegedly save £300,000 a year or roughly 4p per household per week.

Currently 5,000 tons of food waste is collected annually and sent to an anaerobic digester. There the food waste is converted into methane which is then burned to generate electricity. According to the Society For General Microbiology:
In addition, what is left at the end of the process is sold to farmers as fertiliser and is a direct replacement for chemical fertilisers, typically made using fossil fuels. From an environmental perspective it just seems to be the right thing to do and is supported by both Central Government and the London Assembly whose paper in March 2018 made separate food waste collections a key recommendation.

Barnet have to pay to process the food waste but because it is such a good quality "feedstock" for the anaerobic digester (AD), it is highly valued and as such the price paid to process food waste is much lower than for other products used at other facilities such as sewage slurry.

Barnet will now send the food waste for incineration, a process which is much more harmful to the environment that AD. Don't take my word for it. Below is an extract from a scientific paper submitted to The 8th International Conference on Applied Energy – ICAE 2016 "Comparison between the technologies for food waste treatment" which you can read in detail here.

I know it looks a bit technical but the key facts are that incinerating food waste is much worse for the environment that AD. Incineration of food waste generates much more nitrogen dioxide and twice as much dioxin, a substance harmful to humans, than AD.

This week I have spoken with four different AD operators in the London area. All expressed their surprise that Barnet would be taking such a retrograde step. All said that household food waste is a highly valuable feedstock for the AD process because it generates so much energy and that 100 tons a week, consistently throughout the year, would make it an exceptionally large and attractive contract.

So now let's look at the alternatives, the ones that weren't discussed at the meeting. Before the election  Barnet Conservatives made much of promising to retain weekly bin collections. However at the same time they recognised that recycling rates have fallen back and we are miles away from achieving the 50% target they set. A number of boroughs have moved to fortnightly general waste collection not just to save money but because it forces people to recycle more. In Barnet the obvious solution would be to retain weekly recycling collections, blue and brown bins, and to move to fortnightly black bin collections, incentivising people to recycle and to divert more of their food waste to the brown bin.

I don't have the specific figures but I am sure that cutting black bin collections to once a fortnight would save a heck of a lot more money than cutting brown bin collections which are picked up at the same time as the blue bins. The problem is Council Officers were unable to offer that option because the Tory manifesto said they would keep weekly bin collections.

It is also worth noting that by scrapping the brown bin collections it will make it impossible to shift to fortnightly black bin collections in the future because the food waste will stink after two weeks especially during the summer months.

The final nail in the environmental coffin is that the redundant brown food bins and kitchen caddies from every household won't be recycled - they will be burned in the Edmonton incinerator.

I do not believe councillors were given all the information and residents definitely weren't consulted about this change of policy. This decision is a bad one, environmentally and financially, and must be overturned. Please sign the petition and ask your local councillors to try and overturn this bad and entirely political decision. Click here for the petition

No comments:

Post a Comment