Archive for January, 2009

First record of a two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, in Guernsey waters

January 29th, 2009 by Richard Lord

Commercial fisherman Steve Fallaize caught a two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, in a gill net set one mile off L’Ancresse off Guernsey’s north coast. The net was set overnight and the fish was landed on the 29 January 2009.

Guernsey commercial fisherman, Steve Fallaize, holds the first recorded two-banded sea bream, Diplodus vulgaris, caught in British waters (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

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A Modern, Sustainable Treatment of Solid Waste in Brittany, France

January 24th, 2009 by Professor Nicholas Day

Decision time is approaching for the treatment of Guernsey’s waste.

A range of approaches can be expected in response to the call for tenders. At one extreme is likely to be the solution adopted by Jersey, for a large mass burn incinerator to handle, at great expense, the great bulk of the waste stream.  More closely attuned to modern developments is the approach taken by our nearby neighbours in Brittany, in the north west of the  Cotes d’Armor.

Along the Cote de Granit Rose, from Paimpol to Lannion, and inland to Guingamp and beyond, 107 communes, with a total population three times that of Guernsey, joined forces some 10 years ago  for the sustainable management of their waste.

From the outset, the underlying strategy was clear. Waste is a resource, from which the maximum value should be extracted. To achieve this, multiple treatment channels would be established, which would adapt and evolve as new technologies emerge.

The main centre is in the Brittany countryside halfway between Pluzunet and Begard, with two subsidiary composting facilities elsewhere. My wife and I visited the centre in mid-November, and were given an afternoon’s tour of the facility.

The main site is on some three hectares, dominated by a large building which houses an incinerator, recycling facilities and a variety of storage areas for recyclables and bottom ash. Next to the site are four hectares of greenhouses.  In 2007, 125,000 tonnes of waste was processed, consisting of all the municipal waste and some 30% of industrial and commercial waste.

So what are the main treatment streams, and what value is extracted?

First, incineration, which has a role to play but not a dominant one. The incinerator can handle 55,000 tonnes per year, that is some 40% of the total waste (the Guernsey equivalent on a population basis would have a capacity of about 20,000 tonnes per year i.e. along the lines of the micro-incinerator proposed by the Waste Disposal People’s Panel), and works to full capacity throughout the year apart from two periods of two weeks when it is closed for maintenance. The energy generated is partly converted to electricity and exported into the local grid (10,500 MWh per year) and partly to heat the neighbouring four hectares of greenhouses, with plans to add an additional four hectares. The greenhouses produce flowers and, to a smaller extent, vegetables. The bottom ash is sold for use as hard core, under strictly regulated conditions, on roads. There are no plans to increase the incineration capacity.  In fact they expect the  amount of household waste incinerated to decrease steadily as the quantity composted or recycled increases, the resulting spare capacity of the incinerator then being used to increase their treatment of industrial waste. The use of the energy from the incinerator directly as heat is not only more efficient than converting it into electricity, it also directly replaces the use of fossil fuels for greenhouse heating, and at about one third the cost.

Second, household waste.  Until recently, about a quarter of household waste was composted at a plant at Pleumeur-Boudou set up in 1983. The resulting compost no longer meets current standards, introduced in 2006 with stringent limits on contamination by heavy metals, plastic, glass etc., so the plant is being replaced.

The new plant, with a capacity of 20,000 tonnes per year, is designed to remove contaminants such as old batteries, other metal objects, glass and plastic and should be brought on stream by the middle of next year. The new plant produces compost that will meet the new standard (NFU44-051) for agricultural use, and should fully meet the requirements of the Brittany vegetable growers association. The amount of household waste composted rather than incinerated will increase as demand for the compost grows, and it is anticipated that in the medium term most household food waste will be treated in this way. The compost will be used mainly in vegetable production.

Third, wood. Nearly 10,000 tonnes of wood are handled yearly at present. None goes into the main incinerator. Clean, untreated wood, e.g. from plant waste, is sold as fuel, either for heating in schools, hospitals etc., or for greenhouse heating. Treated wood at present is chipped and processed into chip-board, although there are plans to build an 8MW incinerator at the Pluzunet centre, with proper treatment of the combustion gases, to heat a further 8 hectares of greenhouses for vegetable production.

In addition to these treatment streams, the organisation runs a household waste recycling scheme. Uptake has increased steadily since its inception, and they are confident of reaching the European target of 50% within a few years.  It also handles nearly 35,000 tonnes of plant waste a year from which wood for fuel is separated. The remaining 30,000 tonnes is composted and the compost sold. As part of their continual experimentation with new treatment streams, they have recently developed, in collaboration with a Brittany engineering firm, a means to compact expanded polystyrene foam into a reusable form.

At the start of 2009, Guernsey, like most of the developed world, faces a future full of uncertainties. The recent turbulence in world markets for fossil fuels and food is a forerunner of larger future shocks, as pressure mounts on the world’s resources.  In addition, Guernsey faces its own problems with a looming budget deficit and several major infrastructure projects in urgent need of attention. Like our Brittany neighbours, we should be focusing on how we can exploit our waste intelligently and be fully open to new technical developments as they emerge. Wood used as fuel, for example, could replace large quantities of imported oil, and together with compost could give a major boost to a renascent growing industry. It could be a grossly expensive misuse of resources for Guernsey to lock itself in to a single ‘solution’  for the next 25 years.

I should like to thank Magalie Quelenn, responsible for communications at Valorys-Smitred, for a highly informative afternoon.

More information is available at their website: )

Bioplex Technologies Ltd. Anaerobic Digester System

January 19th, 2009 by Will Kirkman

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is the biological degradation of organic material in the absence of oxygen.

The Bioplex AD system treats high solid content organic wastes and, if required, liquid organic wastes. The system is operated as a batch system and in two phases this process is the patented Bioplex process: –

The first or solid phase uses a digester vessel (called Portagester e.g. PG1, PG2, PG3, PG4, which vary in capacity.)

Bioplex Technologies Ltd Portagester 1 (PG1) (click image to expand)

Bioplex Technologies Ltd. Portagester (PG3) (click image to expand)

This portable digester acts as anaerobic filter/leachate bed reactors pasteurising and stabilising the feedstock. The vessel is covered and positioned at the digestion site; liquor from the liquid phase (Stage 2 digester) is circulated through the contents during the digestion period, washing out organic fraction – this stage of the process requires heat. This solids phase typically has a 3-day (or less) retention time, during which the stabilisation known as acid phase hydrolysis occurs. At the end of the process period, the liquid is screened, drained out and stored in the second stage digester where a process known as methogenesis takes place. The methane generated from this process is used for energy either to heat the first stage or put through a generator to produce electricity. The solids left from stage one are relatively odourless and can be safely spread onto farmland or composted, typically 21 days, which breaks it down more effectively. The composted material is an excellent natural fertilizer and growing medium.

(click image to expand)

The process produces a treated solid material that can be composted to produce a natural fibrous fertiliser or biofertiliser from the first stage and biogas from the second stage.

Each tonne of feedstock may produce 25 to 120 kgs of biogas (depending on what the feedstock is) and if used for energy can yield 80 to 400 kgs of carbon dioxide. When the other digester output, the biofertiliser is used in agriculture or horticulture, the mass of increase in plant growth exceeds the carbon dioxide from the energy production. The whole process can therefore absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Depending on what is to be treated, each tonne of feedstock may produce 25 to 120 kilograms of biogas at 60 to 75% methane (CH4) depending on what is treated.

Generally any organic or putrescible waste material that is non-toxic can be processed by this system including raw food; cooked food; food processing waste; food waste from retail and catering; meat processing by-products; farm and zoo animal manures; horse stable manure; industrial wastes e.g. paper pulp, fats, oils, greases; sewage and industrial sludge; household and trade refuse – municipal solid waste (MSW) organic fraction (OF).

The first stage of the process takes two to three days after which the digested solids are ready for composting or other uses. The composting or aeration of the digested solids may take 10 to 30 days subject to end use, regulation and method. The whole process to a usable compost can take as little as 28 days.

The screened liquid from the first stage is contained in the second stage digester where the liquid produces biogas (methane), this liquid is used to “wash” the first stage and is permanently stored in the stage two digester.

The AD process reduces the volume of waste by 25 to 90% depending on the nature of the feedstock.

The running costs are as follows:

a. Labour costs of operation, for example one to two hours for digester systems treating up to 5,000 tonnes per annum (tpa).

b. Maintenance is subject to any service contract and use of the apparatus.

c. Services such as electricity, water and drainage should be considered.

After treatment in the first stage digester, the solids have been drained of surplus fluid, tipped out and composted. The composting or aeration ensures that the biofertiliser is stable and does not draw oxygen from the soil.

The combined digestion and composting process controls odours, parasites, pathogens and weed seeds.

The anaerobic process alters the way in which the nitrogen and other nutrients are held within the biofertiliser, keeping a large proportion as slow release elements. In addition unlike synthetic fertilisers the biofertiliser also contains humus and beneficial microbes. With nutrients for plant growth, what goes into the digester generally comes out in the biofertiliser.

Nutrients are in a stable slow release form and are “locked in” with the fibre. A heap of biofertiliser does not scorch or kill plants like raw manure or slurry, nor do the nutrients leach out as readily.

In many cases there is no surplus liquid from the Bioplex Technologies Ltd process due to the high solids content feedstock such as farm animal and horse stable manure (including bedding). If the feedstock has low solids content such as farm animal slurry, then there will be treated liquid biofertiliser can be used as a liquid plant feed and in some cases added into a compost operation. The latter accelerates the composting and adds to nutrients in the end product.

If the feedstock fed into the digester is rated as organic then the biofertiliser produced can be used on an organic farm. In some cases solid digestate may be more easily classed as organic than liquids. You are strongly advised to check with your organic growing organisation to make sure the biofertiliser is suitable for use.

Systems treating 300 to 1,500 tonnes per annum use a 13 amp 230 volt I phase electricity supply for pumps, lights, controls, kettle and the radio at a rate of 2 to 10 kWh per day. Smaller systems may require energy for digester heating as heat losses may exceed biogas to heat. Larger systems may require 3 phase supply for the operation.

Systems treating more than 250 tonnes per annum may be energy self sufficient and ones above 5,000 tonnes per annum could provide surplus energy for sale.

Much depends on the quantity and type of material treated, whether a boiler or combined heat and power (CHP) generator is used, the operation of the plant and cost efficiency of exporting energy.

Bioplex prefers to store the minimum of biogas (methane), on site, used for the operation due to the cost of gas storage vessels and safety implications.

Gas is stored in flexible membrane “bags” or floating roof gasholders (gasometers) or other means.

Biogas/methane does not liquefy under pressure at room temperature, like propane or butane so other methods such as absorption, chilling and high-pressure storage have been developed for uses such as transport.

The odours created by the process are contained within the digestion vessels and piping. Most odours occur when loading odorous materials and spillages on the site. A well-run digester does not produce odours to the atmosphere; the treated output material smells of freshly dug earth. It can be a good neighbour.

The digestion process itself is silent; noises are produced by pumps and other process equipment. An insulated plant room will ensure minimal noise levels.

HMP Guys Marsh, Dorest anaerobic digester plant (click image to expand)

The Bioplex Process uses a batch system of operation, so it doesn’t operated constantly. The first stage digester can be loaded and unloaded relatively quickly and should take minutes each day. A well-designed plant can work for most of the day unattended. A daily walk around the plant is also advised.

Operation of the system is relatively simple based on batch filling and unloading. Unloading can involve tipping out. The system has been designed to prevent and reduce pump and pipe blockages, silting up and operation downtime.

St. Peter’s Airport Development Group concerned about PSD’s runway proposals

January 18th, 2009 by Stephen Fell

It was a great pleasure to welcome you to the St. Peter’s Airport Development Group meeting at the community hall on Saturday evening, 17 January 2009.

It was encouraging to see so many interested parishioners. It demonstrated the keen interest there is in this subject.

The group would like to thank our elected representatives (States and Douzaine) for their active participation.

Some of the people who attended the meeting at the St. Peter's community hall (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

We covered a wide range of concerns at the meeting and were advised by Deputy Al Brouard to write individually to the Public Services Department and if you feel inclined, to each deputy. After all, it is they who will be voting on this in March. The primary areas of concern are:

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Options for the refurbishment of Guernsey’s airport runway

January 17th, 2009 by Shane Langlois

Deputy Minister Bernard Flouquet of the States of Guernsey Public Services Department invited Assembly members to put forward suggestions on alternative approaches to upgrade the Guernsey Airport runway.

Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher’s sursis included examples of three possible alternative approaches for the runway. I would like to add a further one, based on the following;

1. Our airport is built on a plateau with valleys to the East and West. Infilling either or both these valleys to extend the airport boundaries would;

a. Be extremely expensive, involving as it would importing several hundred thousand tonnes of fill material and

b. Destroy forever the landscape of the valleys including, at the western end, the setting of one of Guernsey’s twenty one Grande Maisons.

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Compostable take-out food packaging available in Guernsey

January 13th, 2009 by Richard Lord

A1 Distributors Ltd. in St. Georges Esplanade, St. Peter Port sells compostable take-out food containers, plates, bowls and soup and drink containers.

Compostable plates and trays made from sugar leaves at A1 Distributors in Guernsey (click image to expand)

These containers are made from sugar cane by-products, reed and straw.  If left accidentally in the countryside or on the sea shore these containers, cups, and plates will decompose within a matter of weeks.  During use they are liquid resistant and they can be frozen or heated in a microwave oven.

Compostable food containers cost a little more than traditional Styrofoam food containers and plates to the user but they cost less to our community and the general public.

The problem posed by Styrofoam take-out food containers is that some people dispose of them carelessly.  They can become a hazard to wildlife and unsightly litter in public areas.  Styrofoam lasts practically forever in the environment.

Environmental degradation may break Styrofoam containers into tiny pieces, which are the right size for ingestion by birds and marine life. The wind blows Styrofoam into the sea and it gets caught in hedgerows where it can remain for years.

Dirty Styrofoam take-out food containers accumulate in the QE II marina, St. Peter Port harbour where they can remain for months if they are not picked up by government employees or concerned members of the public. (click image to expand)

People enjoy a meal and drinks by the sea at La Valette bathing pools. They leave their litter behind for someone else to pick-up. These very light Styrofoam 'clam-shell' food containers can be carried into the sea by the rising tide or the wind where they can harm marine life.

The refuse from an evening meal on Cobo Beach on 10 June 2008. The participants left their litter on the beach. Had it not been picked up by concerned members of the public these Styrofoam food containers would have been picked up and carried out to sea by the rising tide.

It is cheaper for a business to externalise its cost and make the public pay for the litter it generates but responsible take-out food businesses use compostable packaging.

Another way to protect wildlife and to avoid the accumulation of Stryofoam food containers in our environment is to legislate to ban their use.  This has been done by the city of Seattle in Washington State, USA.  See the linked article.  The price of compostable packaging will decline with increased use because of production economies of scale.

To contact A1 Distributors Ltd. call 01481 726556 and ask about the compostable take-out food containers they sell.

G-CAN Chairman Appointed to Guernsey Renewable Energy Commission

January 12th, 2009 by Professor Nicholas Day

Mr. Babbé Chairman of the Shadow Commission is delighted to announce that Guernsey Climate Action Network Chairman Professor Nick Day has been appointed to the shadow Renewable Energy Commission. Professor Day retired as Professor in Epidemiology at the University of Cambridge. Since returning to Guernsey he has taken a keen interest in the effects of climate change and brings to the Commission a considerable knowledge of the renewable energy opportunities in Guernsey.

The role of the GREC will be to license large scale renewable energy projects in the territorial seas around Guernsey, this could include tidal or wave power, and offshore wind farms. The role of the Shadow Commission is to promote the project until legislation is put in place.

Mr Babbé has said “Renewable energy has received a lot of media attention recently. Much of the interest locally is centred on the generation of electricity by arrays of generators situated in the tidal currents around the Channel Islands.  Whilst this is a very exciting development, it should be borne in mind that many of the tidal stream technologies are still at an early stage of development and are as yet unproven. Wave power is at a similar state of development. Offshore wind power is already a proven technology and if it proves acceptable environmentally in Guernsey waters, then there could be more rapid deployment.”

“As a consequence, it is anticipated that it will be some years before Guernsey will be able to receive energy from tidal power, but it is important that the GREC and islanders are ready to embrace these new technologies, where appropriate, when fully commercial systems become available.”

Mr Babbé continued “We are acutely aware of the impact that any renewable energy development will have on the environment and marine users and will be actively engaging with members of the public and stakeholders to ensure that we develop a licensing regime in Guernsey that satisfies industry’s needs and protects our precious natural environment.”

“This will be achieved through the setting up of a separate forum to be known as the Guernsey Renewable Energy Forum which will facilitate research and development, and debate the best technical, sustainable and publicly acceptable options. Several key stakeholders have already agreed to participate in the forum and I am delighted that this sub-group will be chaired by Professor Day.”

The Shadow Commission (and later the GREC) will prepare the licensing framework and co-ordinate all the relevant stakeholders in the Island so that when the time is right the Island will be in a position to take advantage of the marine power opportunities as and when they arise.

The Shadow Commission is creating a website where more information about the work of the Commission can be found.  The website will be in place by February 2009. In the meantime there is information on the States website and an area where members of the public or interested groups can contact GREC.


A Shadow Commission has been established by the Commerce and Employment Department as directed by the States of Guernsey following the States’ June debate on the Policy Council’s Energy Policy Report. The Policy Council Energy Policy Report was debated by the States in June and can be found in Billet d’Etat No. VIII 2008.

The Shadow Commission members are Mr Richard Babbé, Acting Chairman, Mr Jeremy Thompson and Professor Nick Day.  Mr. Peter Neville has stood down from the Commission due to other work commitments.

For further information and to arrange interviews please contact Mr Jon Torode, Commerce and Employment Department Tel. 01481 234567 or email jon.torode (at)

Ideas to reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate…

January 7th, 2009 by Richard Lord

Beth reduced the amount of plastic waste she produced in 2009 to 3.4 lbs. which represents about 4% of what the average American produces in one year.

Beth writes on her website: Our oceans are filling up with plastic: plastic that harms wildlife and never biodegrades; plastic that enters the food chain and leaches toxic chemicals. This blog is a record of my journey to live with as little unnecessary plastic as possible. Won’t you join me? Fake plastic fish may be cute, but if we don’t solve our plastic problem, they could be the only kind we have left…

Deputy David de Lisle comments on PSD proposals for the rehabilitation of the Guernsey airport pavement

January 6th, 2009 by David de Lisle

Deputy David de Lisle PhD wrote the following suggestions in response to the Public Services Department inviting members of the States of Deliberation to express their views about the Guernsey Airport pavement rehabilitation proposals after the successful Sursis in December 2008

Suggestions on alternative approaches that should be considered

It is my view that a full cost benefit study is required on the project—which would involve development of a base case and alternatives, and the identification and quantification of costs and benefits of each. The base case provides a basis against which the investment alternatives can be compared with the continued operation of the existing system. Benefit –cost analysis is a method for making systematic investment choices in the public sector and has wide application to aviation projects. There is need for economic evaluation of alternatives in order to determine which approach is the optimum course from an economic point of view and to ensure that investment tasks such as the resurfacing of the airport runway and pavements should be accomplished at least cost. Alternatives presented would also take into consideration externalities (environmental and social costs or benefits).

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Deputy Brouard expresses concern to PSD Minister Flouquet about airport pavement rehabilitation

January 2nd, 2009 by Al Brouard

In a letter to PSD Minister Bernard Flouquet, Deputy Al Brouard expresses his concern about the PSD proposals to refurbish the runway.

Thank you for your letter to all States Members of the 19th of December inviting suggestions as to how we may proceed following the successful Sursis placed by Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher and myself.

I am not sure that this medium of “we write in with our ideas” and you will “examine each and every suggestion and as far as possible include a comment on it in its final report” that’s not what I want.

I would like you to come back with different proposals and options with weighted consideration. I did not get the feeling in the debate that PSD had acknowledged it needs to return with a new solutions, but you say in your letter you are listening so here goes:

Executive Summary

Please, I ask you, drive from the Airport to Checkers turn round at the supermarket and then drive back to the Airport. Just take the trouble to do this and have a look, that is all I ask.

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