The end of Kerbside Recycling

December 2nd, 2008 by Graham Guille

I share Deputy David de Lisle’s disappointment at the recent announcement from P.S.D. that they are ending Kerbside recycling, mainly on cost grounds. I also agree with him that this is yet another instance whereby that department is leaving this island with little alternative to incineration as a disposal route for the island’s rubbish.

The economic argument against more recycling is essentially flawed. We are being asked to accept that we can only justify recycling if it can be done at little or no cost.

Yet at the same time, we are being told that it is acceptable to ask this community to spend upwards of £250+Million (the twenty five years cost of an incinerator) to pay for the consequences of not having recycled much of our rubbish.

In simple terms we could, over the next twenty five years spend around £10Million per year on recycling and have at the end of the day spent no more disposing of our waste than if we had bought an incinerator. The added attraction of recycling is that we help the environment and conserve valuable materials in the process. This also removes the need to deal with huge quantities of hazardous ash residues an incinerator would generate.

David de Lisle was exactly right when he said our efforts in recycling meant that there was now insufficient waste being presented at Mont Cuet to justify buying an incinerator. Somehow the tonnage of MSW being dumped in that site has to be ‘increased’ to the ‘magic’ 45,000 tonnes to make an incinerator viable.

Also hampering efforts to justify an incinerator is that the materials we are already recycling (and therefore unavailable for burning) are in the main organic materials i.e. those that are combustible. Recycling of cardboard, paper, plastics and wood is reducing the calorific value of what waste remains to the point where complete combustion may not occur. Therefore, to make an incinerator work at all, somehow these combustible materials will need to be fed back into the waste stream.

All of this ignores the ultimate destination of incinerator residues. So far no one has explained how or where the toxic residue ash from the incineration process is to be disposed of.

It was proposed that the ash residues from the LURGI incinerator were to be dumped in the Vale in a disused quarry. I for one will never agree that toxic ash from any incinerator can be dumped in the Vale or indeed any other parish.

I understand Jersey has been refused a license to dispose of their incinerator ash and will have to deal with these materials on island. I think it highly unlikely we would be allowed to export this poisonous material if Jersey cannot. Jersey has yet to find a long term solution for the 500,000 tonnes plus of toxic waste that was produced by the ‘old’ incinerator at Belle Ozanne. Like Jersey, most of the land surface of Guernsey is within the water catchment area.

I agree with Deputy de Lisle in regarding this latest announcement as yet another ‘turn of the screw’, which will back the States into a corner and leave them with little alternative but to agree to fund an incinerator as Guernsey’s waste treatment solution.

We started out with 34 expressions of interest to solve our rubbish problem yet managed to reduce that number to 8 ‘preferred’ solutions, all of which were incineration or heat treatment of one form or another. When the States are asked to decide on this issue, it should come as no surprise for States Members to be asked to ‘select’ a treatment plant, which is little different to the one offered and rejected in 2004.

We have only made a halfhearted attempt to set up a civil amenity facility at Longue Hougue.

We should have got island wide doorstep recycling up and running, but we lacked the political will.

We have failed to take effective measures with regard to commercial waste.

If we go down the ‘burn everything’ path, it takes Guernsey down a road that has been rejected by almost every other environmentally aware community. It is also going to cost a fortune and I fear it may mean in the long term, the end of all meaningful recycling in this island.

Graham Guille is Deputy for Vale Parish. He is deputy Minister for Housing.

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