Employees at energy-from-waste plants will be doing sterling work in helping to provide a secure energy supply for UK plc. Covanta is liaising closely with the GMB union to cultivate good working relations. Malcolm Chilton, managing director of Covanta Energy, reports
Since it was set up in 1889, the GMB union has developed to become the UK’s largest trade union, representing members in sectors from schools through to healthcare and security.
More than 100 years on, the union has signed an agreement with Covanta Energy, the world’s largest energy-from-waste (EfW) provider. The deal will see Covanta and the GMB support each other through the development and operation of the company’s facilities throughout the UK.
At the core of this agreement lies a commitment to work together on employee relations, safety and environmental issues that are important to those who build and operate EfW plants as well as the local communities that they serve.
It will come into play as construction starts at Covanta’s landmark project, Ince Park, near Chester. Covanta has ambitious development plans for the next five years across the UK. The agreement paves the way for GMB to represent workers employed by Covanta, subject to normal balloting procedures.
Ince Park is a joint venture between Covanta Energy and Peel Environmental to deliver an eco park in the north-west. At the heart of the park will be Covanta’s 95MW EfW facility, with the remainder of the site being marketed to businesses operating in the waste management, renewable energy, petro-chemical, engineering and manufacturing sectors. Construction on the 126-acre site is expected to start towards the end of this year.
During construction of the EfW facility, up to 566 jobs will be created. The agreement with the GMB will help to ensure an efficient, safe and environmentally secure site for all contractors. Covanta and Peel expect that up to 2,350 jobs will be directly created once Ince Park is fully operational.
Gary Smith, GMB national secretary, says: “The agreement is about more than employee relations, important as they are.
At the core of our relationship are commitments to work together over safety and environment - issues important to those who will build and operate the plants, as well as the communities served by the facilities.”
Following the agreement’s signing, Covanta will brief the relevant GMB region about the objectives of any of its projects, including the environmental and wider economic implications of the development. This will allow the GMB and Covanta to agree on areas of common interest and concern during the development and operation of facilities.
Covanta believes it is important that the conditions are created to allow new energy infrastructure to come on-stream as quickly as possible. The urgency of acting to ensure security of supply, including the increased use of renewable energy generation, has been highlighted by the publication of the Government’s draft Energy Bill. This is designed to reform the market to encourage major, long-term investment in cleaner energy generation through renewable and low-carbon energy.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change says that £110bn of investment in electricity generation is needed during the next decade to deliver its objectives - and the Ince Park project fits into this agenda.
Phase One of the development brings with it more than £500m of capital investment. The agreement with the GMB further strengthens Covanta’s commitment to playing its part in future-proofing the UK’s electricity supply.
The company expects the Energy Bill to begin its passage through Parliament soon. It is hopeful that the Government will recognise the importance of EfW not only because it is an effective way of reducing the country’s carbon output, but also because EfW takes into account the wider environmental picture through diverting waste from landfill.
From the Government’s perspective, these have been positive signs to the electorate that it is moving to boost economic growth. The onus is on the Government to ensure that the legislative and regulatory frame-work makes the UK an attractive market in which to operate in the face of global competition.
Ince Park brings to life these environment and economic aims in the largest eco park in the UK - with a state-of-the-art renewable energy facility at its heart.
Workers and management collaborate
A “milestone in worker participation” has resulted in the diversion of 100% of construction waste from landfill during the build of a £7m maths centre at the University of Nottingham.
Wastecycle construction development manager Dan Shearstone says that all 314 tonnes of waste wood, plasterboard, metal and food produced by the project was recycled at its Colwick plant.
“Much of this is due to the willing collaboration between on-site workers and the management at Kier Construction, the main contractor,” says Shearstone. “Our account manager was a regular visitor and gave construction teams so-called ‘toolbox talks’, which promoted the message that time was available to separate materials into the many types of waste bins that we made available.
“For Kier, this realised a saving of 13% on its overall waste management costs.”
Kier buying manager Gavin Jamieson says: “Wastecycle worked closely with us to establish the most efficient and cost-effective solutions to a challenging project. We will continue to work in collaboration with them to achieve these impressive results in future.”
The University of Nottingham’s maths building features a 380-seat lecture theatre and other educational facilities. The design is noted for its streamlined, contemporary style, and was delivered to the top level of the environmental assessment ratings method BREEAM.