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Feature: The long hard slog

As MRW went to press, a decision is awaited into whether the Belvedere energy from waste (EfW) plant in east London can be built or not by Cory Environmental subsidiary Resource Riverside Recovery.

Malcolm Ward, Cory’s chief executive, is keeping
his fingers crossed that the decision will be to go
ahead with the plant after a long planning and
consultation process that began in the year when MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and Deee-Lite were topping the music charts, Margaret Thatcher was replaced by John Major as Prime Minister and Gazza was crying during
the World Cup.

“Looking back now,” he says, “the reason it has taken this long has been two applications. In 1990/91, we went for a very large plant. We learnt that it was overly scaled, which is why we scaled it back to 585,000 tonnes a year nominal capacity under the current scheme. But we also had to adapt to changing legislation and requirements.

“In the 2003 inquiry, we used 17 experts to cover all bases to avoid leaving ourselves vulnerable. The whole process has been well managed by our team, especially with opposition to the development. We’ve had to check it is the right answer for the area. We have thought ahead and planned, but we were never able to plan for how long this process would take.”

A final decision on the facility was expected soon, after the public inquiry reopened in September last year. If and when it is built, the EfW plant will deal with waste from the Western Riverside Authority and other central London contracts and generate 72MW of electricity.

Ward is convinced that without the facility, London will not be able to deal with its own waste, which is part of London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s plan for a single waste authority.

This would mean that London would have to deal with 85% of its own waste by 2020.

But Ward is critical of the mayor’s plans to use in-cineration only as a last resort and to be against it
in principle. “Without the Resource Riverside Recov-
ery plant at Belvedere, there would be no way of
meeting his ideas because it would need 330-odd re-cycling facilities in London and we have realised
how difficult it is to get planning consent in the capital,” says Ward.

“Although recycling rates have increased, our
solution for Riverside is recycling-led and then to burn whatever residual is left. This would be to replace
landfill.

“London definitely needs to take responsibility for its own waste because the Home Counties have taken too much. There will always be a role for landfill as zero waste is not an option. I can see the waste hierarchy being recycling, EfW, other technologies and then there will always be a future for landfill.”

Indeed Ward is keen to stress that energy recovery from waste is a technology we are likely to see a lot more of. “The tide seems to be turning from EfW being taboo, to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs seeing it as part of a sustainable policy. It is not economic for small alternative technology plants.

We need large scale and it is still more expensive that EfW. I’ve always thought that EfW would duck and weave as a more acceptable technology than nuclear. As gas prices increase, EfW makes a lot of sense and I’m sure the

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