A new £ 600 million incinerator will be better for the environment than sending waste to landfill, the company building said, as construction continues.
The Rivenhall plant near Braintree in Essex will generate electricity by burning non-recyclable waste starting in 2025.
Activists are concerned about air pollution and reduced recycling rates.
“Residual waste is sent to landfill, which is the worst thing you can do from a climate change perspective,” said John Ahern of waste company Indaver.
“Incineration is an improvement.”
‘Solve a problem’
He said about half the cost of the waste-to-energy project, at a former air base, went into gas cleaning technology and environmental control.
“We can’t just burn things, we’re not allowed to pollute,” Essex told BBC.
“[Society] produces too much waste [worldwide]and the UK is not self-sufficient in generating its own electricity: we rely on fossil fuels.
“In the long run we need to look at the waste we generate, we need to improve.
“We are solving a problem that now exists”.
Building permit for the building was granted by Essex County Council in 2010, with a permit to operate approved by the Environment Agency in 2020.
The company said it will burn 595,000 tons of waste from across the region each year and generate enough electricity for 60,000 households.
Construction began in March last year and initially involved moving three million tons of land, Ahern said.
This week, ten large trucks delivering Nottingham drilling and piling equipment drove through villages near the site.
Mr. Ahern said they did not encounter any problems and that three more “processions” would take place by the end of the year.
James Abbot, a green district councilor representing the wards near the site, described what Mr. Ahern had called “green wash.”
He added that the site would produce 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, making it the largest single CO2 producer in Essex.
“It will have a huge negative impact on climate change,” he said.
“It will reduce the quality of the air.
“The rules are that it shouldn’t produce pollution to a level that will harm human health, but it’s very controversial and those limits keep changing.”
The Parishes Against Incineration campaign group said it would continue to protest as construction continued.
Nick Unsworth, of the group and also an independent district councilor at Braintree, said, “We have a long-term plan, which we are exploring, to start our air quality monitoring.”
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