The proposed £200m Amey Cespa incinerator project for the Waterbeach waste management park has quite rightly created concern amongst local residents. Pollution, if is not run properly and the increase in heavy freight traffic are the primary apprehensions.
The argument for energy from waste (EfW) is complex. Landfill is unsustainable, incinerating waste reduces its volume by 95% and the residue waste is largely recycled and used by the construction industry. Landfill sites like Waterbeach emit large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than CO2. Despite developments in technology concerns still surround emissions from EfW plants. Whilst the discharge, in normal operation of particulates, dioxins and NO2 are all within "safe" limits no long term studies have been conducted on the latest generation of EfW plants. Burning plastic waste without full controls produces some of the most dangerous pollutants, with China's shifting policy towards reprocessing waste we can expect a greater percentage of this to end up in EfW plants? With the laws relating to this area currently under the jurisdiction of the EU some uncertainty surrounds the direction they will take in the future.
The current plant sees waste being processed at Waterbeach from as far afield as the Isle of Wight. The company says that this new facility will process almost 1/4m tonnes a year, further increasing pressure on local infrastructure that is already at breaking point.
The site's operator, Amey Cespa, has a chequered history at this site. The Environment Agency have previously taken action relating to emissions from the current reprocessing site, which is still far to smelly. Just last year residents were forced to keep windows and doors closed in August as 500 tonnes of rubbish caught fire.
Is this an attempt to bury bad news at a time when local residents are overwhelmed about the scale of development? Assurances are that the technology is safe but incinerators have been linked to an increase in birth defects and infant mortality. With the close proximity of the proposed housing development is this a gamble that current and future residents are prepared to take?
We think that Waterbeach and the adjacent communities deserve far more information and consultation.