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EfW row flares up in a scorching summer

Corin Williams

It is the season for summer parties, and MRW has been kindly invited to more than a few industry soirees. 

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) do, held in the garden of its offices near Victoria Station in London, heard from ESA chairman Stewart Davies, who outlined the need for increased UK energy-from-waste (EfW) capacity to a crowd of industry VIPs.

It is something the ESA has long campaigned for, and it reflects the widespread sector view. But as people ate the tasty vol-au-vents, many would not be aware that the anti-incineration lobby was drawing up plans against them.

Just a few days later, the UK Without Incineration group launched a report on emissions at Parliament. What may unnerve some in the sector is that Labour shadow resources minister, David Drew, lent his support to the report. MRW is not yet certain what Labour’s official stance is on EfW, but should there be a change of government it seems likely the ESA will face an uphill struggle.

As the MP for Stroud, Drew is very vocal in his opposition to Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s Javelin Park EfW in Gloucestershire. He has also raised questions on incinerator emissions in the House of Commons.

The public’s perception of EfW really matters, and it is all too easy to stoke the fires of nimbyism. With a minority Government in place, many MPs will not want to go against the wishes of their constituents for fear of losing their seats.

Let’s not forget the debacle in Norfolk where, after years of planning, Cory Wheelabrator was forced to withdraw its EfW proposal because of a series of planning decision delays imposed by former communities secretary Eric Pickles - a man who often followed the nimby tune. Norfolk County Council not only had to pay up more than £33m in compensation, but its residual waste has now to be exported to be burned abroad. Hardly a victory for the anti-league.

The common view is that the resources and waste strategy will be launched along with the Government’s budget announcement in November. There isn’t much time for the waste sector to win over politicians – and the public - and convince them of the benefits of EfW.

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