A giant incinerator is planned to open near Kings Lynn to take waste from all of Norfolk. The good news is that a lot of the metal that currently rusts away in landfill will be recovered and that heat and power will be generated. Incinerators have had a bad press due to concerns about emissions but we are told those from a new plant are now much less than from older incinerators and are equivalent to a few miles of traffic on a motorway – exact figures vary according to the pollutant.
Of course landfill has its own problems with emissions – the sites have to be managed for at least 60 years after closure and maybe much longer – though the engineer in charge of this site at Longwater thinks that people may well dig them up to recover metals at some point. My picture shows the hundreds of pipes that collect methane (burnt to produce electricity) and to manage the toxic water that leaches from the site. Constructing the site involves many layers of highly technical materials to stop the nasty stuff getting into our drinking water!
Inside the building, shown in the pic above, the contents of recycling bins are sorted – and a lot of it is done by hand. This man is picking PET bottles from a conveyor and throws them at a speed too fast for my camera to capture, into a chute – you can just make out a bottle in flight! His colleagues pick out the HPDE and the end results are these bales of plastic – the third mountain is the stuff they can’t identify and that is worth much less cash.
Take a look at this video to see the whole process. It is a company promotion and it glosses over the huge problems caused by people putting the wrong stuff in the bins – putting cans into bags – squashing bottles etc.
Of course some people can’t even put their recyclables into a bin at all. Yesterday I helped on our village litter pick and we picked up loads of lager and energy drink cans, cola bottles and take away food wrappers. Certain brands feature prominently. I urge you to support Bill Bryson and the CPRE’s campaign for a deposit scheme.
And this is where it gets complicated because the recycling plant at Longwater relies on the profitable recovery of cans and bottles to provide an income. Take that away and then they may not be able to process paper which at times has no value at all.
I can only skim over these problems here but would be happy to help Elena to revive the waste group if there is a wider interest. In the short term groups like Wombling and Freegle can give items a new lease of life but I feel the long term solution requires communities to become much more self sufficient – to make things and produce food locally and in the process to become resilient. In the meantime I can only admire Erik’s example to us all!
Pics – Schematic of a waste incinerator, Longwater closed landfill, sorting plastic at NEWS, Richard with litter in Little Melton