Deputy Scott Ogier’s speech to the States of Deliberation on waste minimisation on 25 February 2010

March 21st, 2010 by Scott Ogier

Thank you Sir.

That was a great addition by Deputy Storey to the debate for reasons I will come to later.

In 2004 I headed up a Requete designed to take a last look at a 70,000 tonne incinerator, and in my opening speech on the Requete I said, and I quote, “mass burn technology is not energy from waste, it is energy to waste.”  The proportion of energy recouped from burning all the products we have manufactured is such a fraction of what went in to produce them in the first place it is a waste of energy.  And over the next five years I continued to deliver that message time and time again.

We have fought our way through numerous debates, the purpose of which was to give the States the opportunity to change its aspirations, to change the way we saw the subject of waste, and to change the way we dealt with it.

In 2004 I was unhappy that the Board of Administration had just brought forward an incinerator as a solution to the waste problem.  I was unhappy the States had not had the opportunity to make its views properly known on our method of waste disposal, and I said we needed the involvement of the States.  We needed to see the alternatives.  We needed to have debates on waste to seek to minimise our waste stream, and to build up recycling.  We have had that involvement over the past six years, and yet here we are again, in the same spot as we were in 2004, and I can’t believe that we are here.

Especially as this time the solid waste solution is a compromise solution designed so both sides of the Assembly can get behind it, and when I say ‘both sides’ I mean the side that believes that waste is going to rise from 45,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes, and by the other side I mean those of us who believe that the waste at worst will stabilise and over the next 25 years will probably decrease. So with this compromise solution both sides can get behind it.

We argued there must be more recycling, and there is a front-end recycling facility.  We argued that we would need a heat treatment for around 30 to 50,000 tonnes, but our opponents in this House argued that we needed a solution for 75,000 tonnes.  Yet, a 37,000 tonne solution was put forward as part of a two-phase modular approach.  In fact, 25,600 tonnes is the minimum capacity at which this incinerator would function normally, without additional fuel, and still generating electricity.  So really it is a 25,000 to 57,000 tonne plant.  There is flexibility in there.  It is capable of handling a falling waste stream as well as a growing one – more expensive if the amount of waste treated reduces – true.  But the plant would not have to shut down for long periods of time if the waste volumes dropped.

And the gate fee is our construction.  It isn’t from Suez.  It is £175 per tonne because it pays for, not only Suez, but also Mont Cuet, and all recycling.  The gate fee for Suez is much lower than £175 per tonne, so please be careful with your comparisons.  The gate fee for our current strategy is £136 per tonne.  And over £190 per tonne for contaminated.  So in four years time the £136 will be nearer £160 – no big jump to £175 – no waste piling up in the streets in my opinion. And if the waste volume drops the repayment method of the loan can be changed much the same way that one would reconstruct a mortgage repayment.  The price needn’t go through the roof.  So the high gate fee cannot be laid at the door of Suez, and it could be lowered to make it more competitive.

We have with this solution reached a compromise between the two views of what will happen to our waste stream, and it is a good compromise, and I thank Suez for their thought, and I thank them for the appropriateness of their solution and suggestion.

It seems however, that although the 75,000 tonne brigade were content to go with this modular approach, and were content to compromise, some Members were not.  I was willing to get behind a solution, which was streets ahead of our original 2004 incinerator, but not exactly where our side wanted to be.  And I did this with the interest of moving this subject forward, and abiding by the combined will of the Assembly over six years of debate.  But, no, it seems our side is still unwilling to compromise, so here we are again, soon to sign-off on an incinerator project and having last minute doubts.

I have always stated that I believe a waste minimisation approach is required.  I believe that we should be diverting major parts of our waste stream, all plastic, all paper, cardboard, metals should be recycled.  Wood should go for reuse.  Glass for recycling or reuse on island.  All the major elements of our waste stream should be treated as discrete lines of potential raw materials, and diverted for reuse.   Not as a fuel stock for burning.  I argued we should keep the energy in those materials, and reuse them – not burn them for a momentary release of a fraction of their worth.  This is a Zero Waste approach, not that you are likely to arrive at Zero Waste, but in the process of aiming for it, you are able to make enormous inroads into the residual waste stream.  I attended a talk on Zero Waste this week actually, and it was very uplifting, and it was comforting to be in a room full of people who shared my views for once.  It was the exact sort of thing Deputies like myself have been talking about for years. Source segregation of recyclables, diversion rates in the 70 and 80 percent, and residual waste driven right down, achieved by household and commercial kerbside collections, source separation, commercial and industrial separation.  Not taking what you feel like down to a bring bank, but a complete, and systematic diversion regime from the house, from businesses, and from the building sites.

We originally sought to export to Jersey to buy us time to effect these types of changes.  However, in 2006 the States declined to go with export to Jersey, and declined to buy us the time to work on reducing our waste stream.

Also in 2006, Deputy De Lisle’s and my plan for a smaller waste stream of 30 to 50,000 tonnes was similarly defeated, and the States stuck with 45 t0 70,000 tonnes.  We argued at that time that if we could plan for a smaller residual waste amount needing treatment, we would set a ceiling beyond which it would be uneconomical to allow our waste to grow.  After Deputy De Lisle’s lower waste stream Amendment had been lost, the States then failed in 2007 to install Deputy Dorey’s Material Recovery Plant to drive down industrial and commercial waste.  This kind of facility has now been included in the proposed plan. It should have been done under States resolution three years ago.  That was in the previous PSD.  We could have done with Scrutiny’s monitoring of States resolutions at that time.

In 2008 the People’s Panel report came out, and they advocated planning for a smaller residual waste amount, and implementing a rigorous regime of minimisation, diversion, and separation, which would require a cheaper and smaller residual heat treatment plant.  And I agreed with them.  But this current Assembly – the members in this room today refused to pause the procurement process to explore waste minimisation, and a smaller residual plant as recommended by the People’s Panel report, when they rejected the Sursis at that time.  The Sursis was to halt the procurement of the waste solution.  This Assembly has instructed PSD to proceed with their procurement.  Some Deputies now tell me they were fresh into Government and didn’t really understand what was going on, and the ramifications of their actions.

In May 2009 the States rejected kerbside, and in September of that year the States rejected kerbside again.  Now these are the key milestones – the key debates, which gave the States an opportunity to pursue a waste minimisation strategy, and the States decided to follow none of them.

I hope anyone listening will be in no doubt that this current waste disposal proposal is a States of Guernsey proposal, not a Public Services Department proposal, not a Deputy Bernard Flouquet proposal.  Deputy Flouquet and all of Public Services Department have been bound by States resolutions to take the actions they have taken.  And on occasion, personal attacks on Deputy Flouquet are unwarranted, and unjust.  People are angry, I can tell, but please do not blame States departments and Ministers for following States resolutions because that is good governance.

I have always been a waste minimiser, and our societies need to be sustainable.  We need to preserve precious resources, but this Assembly and the last disagreed.  Many of the letters I receive are from people working through the trauma of the situation we find ourselves in, and it is a trauma for some people. We should recognise this.  People are disbelieving.  They’re angry.  Some are depressed.  Many yearn for a better solution, and some accept where we are, and these are all classic stages of a post-trauma event, or a grief cycle, if you like.  People are actually grieving.  I have seen individual authors in subsequent emails over the weeks, go through the stages from disbelief to anger, to depression, and sometimes on to acceptance, but some stay in depression.  Some stay in disbelief.  Some are still in anger.  Some .. few have moved passed acceptance into hope, and into an action phase, and these are people who have followed these matters carefully.  Their grief, disbelief, and anger were over a long time ago, but many coming to this subject really for the first time are still at the early stages of disbelief and anger.  And I understand their feelings because many of us have had to process this.  So where are we now?   Is it too late?   Well, of course not.  The signatures are not on the contract yet.

We are where we were in 2004 on the verge of signing a contract, except this time we have had all the debates.  We said in 2004 we should have.  This time we have made all the decisions we said we needed to in 2004 whether you like what came out of the decisions or not is another matter, but we debated it and we made the decisions.  In 2004 I said that there had been no government involvement, no choices made, no debates.  The Board of Administration had just brought forward an incinerator like any other piece of hardware, and it hardly caused a ripple.  This time around people are very much paying attention, and the States has given its input over the past few years.

Now where I think we should be on the waste debate as all of you must know by now as I keep reiterating is  firmly in the conservation of resources camp.  I believe our society needs to conserve its resources, not use them once and burn them.  Recycling does require energy.  Much of it is supplied in transportation by fossil fuels.

However, recycling of material causes a fraction of the energy employed in the extraction, processing and transportation of virgin materials.  Recycling saves far more energy than is captured by incinerating them.  In the case of paper three times more, in the case of plastics five to twenty times more, and in the case of textiles six times more, and it goes on.  And these savings do take into account the energy used in transporting the materials for recycling, and no, in the energy cycle not all of that energy is saved in Guernsey on our island for the benefit of us, but we have worldwide responsibilities to meet.

So we know about the dangers of oil depletion, and I invite you to imagine what that will do to the generation of waste, and the value of resources.

Deputy Scott Ogier’s speech on waste minimisation part 1 (14 minutes 56 seconds)

We read in yesterday’s Press that rising oil price, and further oil shocks could stall the economic recovery. I mentioned three years ago that oil shocks were on the horizon.  If you think I was ahead of my time with waste minimisation I invite you to join me on the Peak Oil train now while we are still ahead of the curve.  And I say we are ahead of the curve but America has has a policy of invading anywhere with an energy source for years.  So the Alderney Renewable Energy Commission needs to look out.

So I have always wanted to see our recycling being maximised. Deputy De Lisle and I with support of this Assembly put in place at 50 percent recycling target for the Public Services Department to work towards.  They won’t get there this year.  They’ll miss it slightly but at least they are working towards it.  It galvanises their efforts.  I have been in the meetings.  It is always on the agenda.  They’re always looking for new recycling initiatives to take.  We have made improvements in that direction.  But they have been modest and they have slowed.  Our underlying household recycling rate is up around ten percentage points or so.  But we have failed to make massive strides over the past six years and in part that must have something to do with the uncertainty of the waste solution.  There is even evidence to suggest that some of that modest increase could be down to the commercial use of the bring banks anyway.  Our underlying recycling rate seems to be growing at one or two percent per year.

I think we will get to far higher levels of recycling by introducing kerbside and persuading people to put recyclates to their door instead of driving to a bring bank, but some people feel different, which is not OK with me but that is where they are.  And for me it serves to highlight the lack of vision I have seen over the past six years in this Assembly.  The vision simply has not been there.  We argued in favour of the drive to rigorously minimise our waste, to divert all we could, but that vision has not been supported by the majority of States members.  They have not seen that kerbside is the way we attack the household waste stream, and also the commercial waste stream, and that in twenty years time there will only be regular recyclable pick-ups from the household.  Any black bag rubbish will be picked-up fortnightly or you may even have to take that down to a household bring bank because there will be so little of it.  They haven’t seen that food waste, including commercial food waste, could all be anaerobically digested, and mixed with our green waste, and the compost produced could replace the compost imported.  They haven’t agreed that most recyclables could be picked up from the household or commercial premises.  Others could be delivered to central processing areas.

We could have embarked on a comprehensive drive to reduce the waste requiring disposal, with many local jobs created, and industries supported.  Some members may be skeptical, and I invite them to look at a small example, granted, but look how quickly the Island adjusted to the environmental initiative of the change in bags at the supermarkets.  That took a week.  No one even mentions it now.  The fuss there was over that!  Over in a week and everyone quite happy to reuse the reusable bags every time.  No worries.  People are happy to change when they see the benefits.  And that has been the problem.

The States has not had the mettle to take the visionary stance to look to the future and think where do we want to be, and plan accordingly.  So do I think we can change?  Well, let’s look at the voting of this current Assembly.  We threw out the Sursis to pause the solution while micro-incineration was investigated.  We could have stopped our tendering process for a few months, taken a last look at micro-incineration, bottomed out the issues with Jersey, thought about minimising our waste stream further.  This was by one vote, I will admit. But this newly elected Assembly instructed Public Services to proceed with the procurement, and this they did.

The Energy Policy, which although not of central interest to this matter, does serve to show how low a priority environmental policies are for us.  This report was noted rather than endorsed, and its work streams lie un-actioned, unfunded, gathering dust.  The only real part forging ahead is the Renewable Energy Commission, and why?   Because it is a potential income stream.  And all the other stuff about carbon footprints reducing emissions, hypothecated green taxes etc.  All that stuff has been allowed to mould.

We had two opportunities to introduce household collections last year, and the Assembly rejected them both.  So I am not leading the charge against the incinerator because I believe this is exactly the solution this Assembly and the last has voted for in the debates leading up to this point.

Joseph Marie de Maistre said that each country has the government that it deserves.  And it is also true that this government has the waste disposal option it deserves.  I don’t expect anyone to be surprised we have a large plant.  It’s what this Assembly voted to have when we turned down all the other options.

But if people, if Deputies are suddenly turning on to waste minimisation, and would support the strategy I have always espoused, well, I would be foolish to carry on supporting the current proposal.  If the Assembly wants to change its mind, and now wants to follow a waste minimisation strategy after all, and reject incineration as a solution, then I will not oppose that, and argue for a continuation of its previous strategy.  But, and it is a big ‘but’.  If you want an alternative large plant-based system and do not want to go down the waste minimisation route I would suggest you do not vote for this Amendment.  We should not reject this current waste plant, and attempt to go out to tender for a third time, for a large waste plant to handle all our waste.

If you do not want Suez, but you want a large plant, this Amendment is not for you.  The time of large plant solutions will be over.  A vote for this Amendment is a vote for radical and systematic minimisation of our waste stream.  The two factions of waste minimisers and alternative large plant supporters should not club together to support this Amendment as we would not be able to agree on a solution thereafter, and that would be disastrous.

We need to know where we stand and the way to do it is this.  I suggest the waste minimisers vote for this Amendment.  If we are in the majority now, due to previously opposed members seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, fair enough.   We can stop our current solid waste disposal solution, and follow a waste minimisation strategy.  Let’s see where we are.  Let’s know the voting patterns of this house before we proceed.  The absolute worse thing which could happen here today is that the alternative plant supporters join together with the waste minimisers to reject Suez, and then fail to agree what to replace it with over the following months and years, and I will not be party to that.

If the waste minimisers are not in the majority then the Amendment will fall, and that is the decision of the Assembly.  That’s a fair decision.  We know where we stand.  We know that a waste minimisation strategy will have been turned down.  It is then the time to judge those in favour of an alternative large plant when they vote for Deputy Kuttlewascher’s still standing Requete.  If neither faction is in a majority then we go with Suez.  I am sorry Deputy Matthews.  I am discounting your Amendment at this time, not because I am discounting the Amendment, because it didn’t fit in with my speech.

So, if you are up for a waste strategy based around kerbside collections from the household, kerbside collections from businesses, waste segregation at building sites, Material Recovery Facilities for all industrial and commercial waste, food waste collections of household and commercial, anaerobic digesting, composting, and probably the banning of recyclates from Mont Cuet because if we are going to do this we have to do it properly.  Then reject the current waste disposal solution, and let’s take a different route.  A 21st century route.  A forward-looking route, which aids sustainability, and reduces our carbon footprint.

But if you are not prepared to explore these kinds of measures, and implement most of them, then that’s OK.  Your route is down the original Requete or with Suez.  You want a big plant solution.  So please let’s not muddy the waters.  Deputies like Deputy Storey, which is why it was such a good example should stay with the Requete, and not vote with the Amendment.  Do not waste this Assembly’s time, and do not waste the people of Guernsey’s time by voting to reject Suez.  Do not vote for this Amendment, go with Deputy Kuttlewacher’s if you are desirous of a large plant, because it has the alternative large plants you seek.  It also has the comfort of Suez at the end.  We are not going out for a large plant solution if we reject this one.   I am not going to stop our current waste proposal just to go through the kinds of wasted debates we have had over the passed six years.  We cannot afford any more split voting.  Mont Cuet is filling up, and we need to get on with these measures now.

For this to work we would need to work together with the whole community.  We would need to work with the captains of industry, the captains of commerce, the Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Guernsey Industry.  We would need the support of the Guernsey Press and the media, and the people of Guernsey, and this would be a community-wide waste solution – a systematic separation, diversion, and segregation strategy, which we would all need to be involved in, to buy into, and believe in.

So I am with the waste minimisers as I always have been.  If we are now in the majority, fair enough, let us get on and minimise, but if we aren’t don’t take this Assembly down a disastrous route of canceling our second waste solution, and being unprepared to take the required measures afterwards.

Now is the time for all waste minimisers to make themselves known.  If now, not right now.. soon will be the time for all waste minimisers to make themselves known.  If, after seeing the alternatives, you now want a waste minimisation strategy please support this Amendment and let’s have one.  If not, don’t vote for the Amendment.

Deputy Scott Ogier’s speech on waste minimisation Part 2 (13 minutes 26 seconds)

  1. No Comments

Have your say