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Why It's Important to Get Waste Treatment Right
"In order to get the most out of the waste both in terms of resource and money the system needs to be flexible and adjustable."

Hardly anything except perhaps mobile phone technology, has moved as fast as methods for dealing with waste. Technology that was state of the art five years ago is now totally out of date. The reasons for this are firstly that we have become seriously aware of what will happen to the planet if we keep plundering the finite resources, coupled with the effect that waste emissions have on the atmosphere. Secondly the discovery that waste is worth a lot of money.

In order to get the most out of the waste both in terms of resource and money the system needs to be flexible and adjustable. An example here is that currently we have a landfill tax to deter just dumping rubbish in holes in the ground. As Councils discover that it is costing them lots, they look for other methods and the Government gets less tax. It is on the cards that in order to keep the tax rolling in, the Government intend to put a tax on incinerators. Incinerators are massive structures that take up to five years to build and cost millions of pounds. You can't use them for anything else, and they will take millions more to pull down.

The part of the waste system that produces money for the Council (and indirectly the Council Tax Payer) is recycling. You can't recycle material when it has been burned. Some will claim that inert bottom ash can be used as aggregate to build roads, but we have so much aggregate in Cornwall that we could supply road building ten times over, and replacing it with ash will mean the loss of Cornish jobs.

Therefore all these different parts of the system need to be analysed and weighed against each other. before a decision is made to spend about £150 to £200 million of tax payers money on an incinerator. Unfortunately the Council have resisted the idea of looking at an alternative for at least ten years. At the last minute, they told a group investigating waste issues (Cornwall Waste Forum) to spend their own time and money to produce an alternative. This was done and put before the Council in June, it was called a "High Recycling Model". It uses laser and X-Ray technology to sort recycling out of the waste and will raise the recycling rate in Cornwall from 37% to about 70%+

The food waste and remaining organics will be composted by anaerobic digestion which produces a form of natural gas that can be used to generate power, the left over compost can be sold.

Cornwall Waste Forum did not expect the Council to accept their word for it, and asked for their idea to be independently reviewed. The Council refused and said they would be pushing ahead with Incineration. This is despite the fact that High Recycling will save at least £9-10 million per year.

Two things have now happened which we hope will change things. Firstly there has been a change of Cabinet, (and we hope attitude), at County Hall, and secondly the Cornwall Waste Forum have spent a lot of money raised by volunteers, to get the best scientists in Europe to write a review of their idea and compare it to Incineration. All of the MK Members on Cornwall Council were in favour of the change of Cabinet and want to read the review.

The problem is - will the Cabinet hold back on making a decision on the Incinerator until after they have considered the Independent Review? We hope that you will take this chance to provide a greener, healthier and much cheaper solution to Cornwall's Waste solution by letting the Cabinet know that you want them to read the review, (due to be published on November 17th), before they make a decision.
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By Rod Toms. Published on 29th October 2012.

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