Gloucestershire County Council’s Waste Core Strategy Site Options Consultation

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on October 30, 2009 19 Comments
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Philip Booth - Stroud District Councillor (Green) talks about large incinerators

Philip Booth - Stroud District Councillor (Green) talks about large incinerators

I’m delighted to welcome Philip Booth to our site today.

Philip is a Stroud District councillor (Green) and author of Ruscombe Green blog for which he has won awards including the prestigious ‘Best Green blogs’.

Today he gives his view about Gloucestershire County Council’s Waste Core Strategy Site Options Consultation and large incinerators and urges us to make our voice heard.

The Waste Core Strategy Site Options Consultation is open until 30th November (i). With a catchy title like that you might have already stopped reading. I hope not as this issue is important.

Gloucestershire County Council Consultation

Gloucestershire County Council is consulting on 13 possible sites for waste disposal using strict criteria including transport links and flood prevention. However, the methods or technologies which might be installed on those sites, is not covered. Nor does it ask whether we want one big facility or several small ones. The County Council says it is ‘technology neutral’, but many fear the outcome will be a large incinerator on one of these sites.

Incinerator concerns

A large incinerator means:

  • Incentives to reduce waste are lessened
  • Very inflexible 24 year plus contract
  • Waste has to be transported miles when forecasts indicate significant future rises in oil prices
  • Increasingly valuable resources that we should be utilising are burnt
  • Incinerator ash has to be landfilled
  • Rapidly developing new technology can’t be utilized
  • We could be liable for fines if we don’t produce enough waste!

Burning our waste is one of the worst solutions for the environment. Mechanical Biological Treatment (using Anaerobic Digestion) technology is a proven alternative that is better for the environment and taxpayer.
This could be part of a diverse localised approach which, besides saving on transport, would mean dealing with waste as close as possible to the point at which it arises.
It would also include driving waste out of the system – a topic very familiar to this website – and for that, we have our old friends the 3Rs – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle, along with a further 3Rs – Refuse – Repair – Research.

A large incinerator would be a serious mistake.

Green Stroud District councillors sign petition outside Javelin Park in Feb

Collecting signatures in Gloucester for petition

Consultation concerns

Some of us have concerns about the County consultation process. Recently the Green party showed how the results of a very comprehensive public consultation exercise on waste by the County Council appear to have been misrepresented (ii). They claimed that in the trade-off between environmental, flexibility and cost factors the public rated:

  • Environmental factors the most important (98% of respondents)
  • Flexibility second most important(91%)
  • Costs were the least important (89%).

However the unpublished report, which the Green party have now published on their website (iii), shows that under “very important”, respondents actually rated:

  • Environmental factors as most important (70%)
  • Cost and flexibility at 35% each.

The County’s published figures are a sum of the “most important” and “important” results in each category which makes nonsense of what the public said.

Why did the County bury this result?

Environmental concerns

The County consultation shows the public are very much more concerned about the environment than the flexibility and cost of waste solutions. If the County had listened, surely they would have ruled out plans for a large incinerator which is one of the worst options in terms of climate change. Many argue that a single large incinerator would also fair badly in terms of economics, especially in the long-term due to the inherent inflexibility of a single facility.

Green Stroud District councillors sign petition outside Javelin Park in Feb

Green Stroud District councillors sign petition outside Javelin Park in Feb

Neutral or neutered on technology?

Other Councils have expressly excluded specified technologies like large incinerators, but Gloucestershire has not. Instead, the County has gone out to the market to ask for solutions to deal with the 40% of domestic waste that currently isn’t recycled. They call this being neutral on technology.

Green County councillor Sarah Lunnon commented: “Many see it as being neutered. Neutered on leadership, neutered on environmental stewardship, neutered on community sustainability, neutered on finances.”

In taking this approach the Conservatives have opened themselves to criticism. This contract is likely to be the single most expensive the County Council has ever negotiated. We need to get it right.

Incineration tax

However there are signs of hope. Tory leader Cameron may have dodged ruling out incinerators in Gloucestershire, but Tory environment shadow minister Nick Herbert MP has spoken in favour of tax on incineration. This would make the economics of incineration even more costly and uncertain. Furthermore the Conservatives “Quality of Life” report says “a ban should be established by 2012 on the incineration of any untreated biodegradable and recyclable waste (i.e. waste which has not passed through a pre-treatment process)”.

Ruling out incineration

Some local Tories, like Stroud District Council Leader Chas Fellows, have also spoken out against a large incinerator.
However while the County have NOT made a decision yet, they also note that they have not ruled out incineration like a previous local Tory manifesto had promised.

Opposing large incinerators

Many local Parish Councils, campaign groups like SWARD and Gloucestershire Friends of the Earth along with local Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party representatives are together in an uneasy loose ‘coalition’ to oppose a large incinerator on any of the proposed sites (iv). No doubt this issue will feature big in future local elections, it already regularly fills the pages of the local paper.

Waste technology

The process of finding solutions for our waste is fraught with difficulties, not least that the District Council is responsible for waste collection, the County responsible for disposal and on top of that Planning has to consult on these proposed sites.  Hence we get this latest ridiculous statutory planning consultation that doesn’t take account of the type of technology for each site.

April march against incineration

April march against incineration

Recycle more!

Many members of the public who have completed the consultation e-questionnaire on the Council website have already made the point that they don’t want to see a large incinerator on any of the sites. I hope that others will join them to make our voices heard.

The County needs to end their ‘technology neutral’ stance, come off the fence and rule out a large incinerator. Instead let’s see investment in the 6Rs and the best technology to deal with the residual waste. As this My Zero Waste site has shown, cutting our waste significantly is possible. Let’s do it together!


(i) Relevant webpage on the GCC website.
(ii) Comments regarding the consultation.
(iii) Green Party.
(iv) The Green Party’s clear opposition to large incinerators and an alternative strategy.

You can contact Philip directly at philip.booth2(at)
hilip endeavours to answer all emails but current work commitments mean it may take longer than usual.


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (19)

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  1. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    EfW Incineration is no longer first choice with London recently examining all other possibilities before this unsustainable option. This is big change from previous activity where EfW-I was the only route open.

    AD for all food waste should be the aim for councils since this offers EfW without the many negative outcomes of Incineration. Such plants could be developed for local areas for ease of collection and use of the biogas produced.

  2. Poppy says:

    Accoding to the local press, Jonathan Porritt recently said the the newest incinerators are nothing to worry about, but I haven’t been able to find anything more than the 2 or 3 small paragraphs they printed.

    Do you know anything more about this Philip?

  3. Why not have an Autoclave? It recycles everything.

  4. Thanks for comments – in terms of Porritt – as folk will know he is, and has been, a Green party member for many years although in his previous role as advisor to the Government in his role at the Sustainable Development Commission he was less public about his membership – since leaving he has been on many Green party platforms – I suspect he might have been misquoted – the press often confuse thermal & incineration processes – however certainly the official figures on ‘toxic emissions’ of the latest incinerators show your neighbours BBQ is probably more dangerous than an incinerator – but – and a big but – I consider more work needs to be done urgently on this – the emissions like nanoparticles and more are considered to be dangerous by many – I don’t think the Government has answered sufficiently the work of folk like Dr Paul Connett. Nevertheless there are more than enough reasons to reject large incinerators without even having to look at the emissions arguments.

    In terms of Porritts’ position I was talking today to a Lib Dem colleague who last year at their party conference attended a question and answer session where Jonathan Porritt, slammed mass-burn incineration, saying that it “had no place in a waste management strategy”. A further problem is the PFI stuff that push councils into accepting inappropriate waste arrangements. PFI is way behind environmental technology and excludes newer approaches like pyrolysis.

    There has been some debate locally about pyrolysis. To summarise the Green party position locally: We oppose a single mass burn incinerator for reasons outlined above not least as it excludes newer technology that is currently being developed. We support localised MBT (AD) as the best way of handling our waste, and, if necessary, we support the residue from MBT being used in small scale gasification and pyrolysis CHP plant in order to extract the remaining resources in the waste and minimise the residue which can be used as inert filler. We feel that sending the MBT residue to landfill will perpetuate landfill as a fundamentally unsustainable method of waste disposal and runs counter to the goal of Zero Waste.

  5. Poppy says:

    @Cllr Philip Booth:

    Thank you Philip.

    I’ve just dug out the cutting that had somehow buried itself among many other bits and pieces that my family and I have hung onto over the last couple of weeks!!

    Word for word in quotes it says “Current incinerators, built to EU standards, pose no threat to human health. They now use a process called anaerobic pyrolysis, a burning process without oxygen which results in very low emissions.”

  6. Mr Green says:

    Hello Philip and thank-you for your most informative post here. It’s a priviledge to have some ‘informed details from one who has some political understanding of the ‘inside’ of the subject.

    From my POV, incineration is just plain wrong, if only because it does not follow the time tested and proved model from nature. In the natural world all left over residue is reused as a building block for something else. In other words, its a CREATIVE process that spawns new life and usefulness. The man-made industrial model is contradictory to this and chooses to anihilate waste in any way possible, be it bury, burn or bullshit that it doesn’t matter or even exist. This is the DESTRUCTIVE model that is clearly causing so much problem.

    Incineration is the epitome of the destructive model and produces some of the greatest problems environmentally and socially.

    The wise politician will follow models that have worked and are proved to be successful over eons. Our man made efforts pale sadly in the face of the natural model that has succeeded for millions of years, and clearly will continue to be sustainable in the future.

    Putting that into context means extrapulating natutral prinicples, that clearly include maximising the principles of utilising biological decomposition and reuse. ie composting. Regarding other materials, such as the ubiquitous plastic, we need a directive approach to restrain spawning multiple hybrid manufactured materials that lead to difficulties in reuse and recycling due to chemical construction.

    Only governmental intervention can achieve this change, by bringing guidance and legislation where appropriate.

    Ok, WE could pontificate endlessly on this matter, but ultimately we must follow natures model of highly successfull methods of reuse and reintegration of waste materials. It’s the only model that has been proved to work… and for us to try and ‘reinvent the wheel’ by utilising man made efforts is futile and dangerous.

    Our trust and hope is that the Green party is akin to appreciating these issues and promoting them wherever possible and realistic.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks Philip for a really informative post. I appreciate you taking the time to shed light on this issue. As you know I tried to write something myself, but found the whole subject overwhelming and confusing! It’s great that you were able to share your knowledge and help the residents of Gloucestershire make a more informed choice.

  8. Johnora says:

    Most people wake up to the NIMBY effect. Ha¬! it’s too late then. Let’s take responsibility for our waste now and PLEASE politicians … give us the resources to recycle all this plastic.

  9. Have you considered the Autoclave as an answer to your rubbish problems?

  10. osumi says:

    nanoparticles have no legislative control. Nanoparticles can go everywhere in the blood and in the brain and cause untold problems. Must stop incinerators that exhaust theses toxins. Please Mr Booth help Uk stop this nature crime.. Thank-you, please

    Osumi com stauri au Japon..

  11. J-hargreaves says:

    Mr Booth, you have my support. Your summary is much clearer than anything I’ve read elsewhere in the papers or internet. This subject has been made so complicated, How can we choose or vote for any site as we don’t know what technologies will be used there?

    We must have a more truthful, transparent approach from local authorities. Otherwise, there is no point in canvassing the public for an opinion!

  12. haynes145 says:

    I personally believe that finance and greed is at the heart of these issues. There is so much money to be profited from these incineration contracts that it’s almost impossible to see a rational unbiased way forward. If human greed gets in the way we are doomed, like every other political mistake that has scarred our nation. We need men and women who can lead with integrity and authority laced with wisdom and compassion.

    Ha! you laugh, but these are the virtues of old that once made our nation great. The person who sees and grabs these will become the ‘Churchill ‘ of our day. Got a free hand Mr. Booth? I hope so, everyone else is just not up to the challenge…

  13. Last night I wrote a reply re autoclave and then my internet connection was lost and with it my words but hope I’ve captured some of it here again….I have to note I am not so familiar with the process – autoclave technology is essentially a pressure cooker that steam cleans the residual waste – I understand this can be either direct or indirect steam.

    Autoclave seems to have reached a commercial scale in the US but I don’t think there are any plants yet in Europe? There is a small one tonne demonstration plant in the Midlands that a Green colleague has visited a while back. I understand they still do not yet have any signed contracts although interest is being expressed? The Green colleague said that he was shown the cycle with the contents of a skip of waste and notes ‘superficially the results were impressive’.

    The fibrous material can be converted to construction board or used in a gasification plant. There is still a question as to whether the yield is as good as claimed. There is also the potentially problematic issue that the fibre is still a waste after it becomes a fibre, and will still be a waste when made into a board – and hence potentially be subject to waste disposal regulation – at what point does waste lose its identity in the legal sense?

    Nevertheless in principle it is an attractive treatment route since it provides a product that can be re-used as an industrial material. This is a technology is worth consideration both as a part of a potential alternative to some sort of incinerator and also, in a much small scale form that we could use for some of the waste.

    However I know the lack of commercial scale plant in Europe or here is a disadvantage. This potential is once more an illustration of how wrong it would be to go for a large incinerator that would be contracted to deal with our waste for up to 30 years. I would welcome more thoughts on this?

  14. Just wanted to also respond to Mr Greens comments re incineration being destructive – I wholly agree – and enclose below the philosophical basis of Glos Green party waste policy – more of that in mo but also wanted to note that there are politicians in all the local political parties that are seeking the best solutions to our waste – we have to do this together – as noted I also believe the County when they say no decision has been taken – however the comment above re leadership is important – yes we do need it and I repeat that I have been disappointed that the County has not ruled out incinerators like other councils. I am hoping now that Greens have their first County Councillor in Glos we can raise some of these issues more easily and call them to account.

    Incineration is not the way we should be going and a large incinerator is just plain wrong. I repeat that again to be clear! However there are still questions – and as pointed out by others, no developed nation currently has waste approaches without some element of incineration – even those best performing countries – already we have over 20 large plants in the UK and more planned.

    We should also note that not all incinerators are the traditional mass-burn EfW (Energy from Waste) for electricity generation only – these are the worst option and sadly way the most popular. Using the heat from them would make them far more efficient in terms of carbon emissions – still not a way I want to go for any plant as they still burn resources we should not be burning. But it is also crucial we get wiser about carbon – more quality research is needed – I saw some figures recently showing cardboard collection and recycling in SOME cases uses more carbon than burning it for heat.

    It state again that it is crucial Gloucestershire doesn’t join those getting a large EFW plants and saddle us all with an economic and environmental monster – we can do so much better – we need those alternatives as noted above like MBT. I’ve also mentioned pyrolysis already – possibly a small part of an interim solution but I want to note that that is also not the whole answer – indeed I have concerns like whether it is really best to gasify the char to create a syngas or not? What other approach?

    Anyhow I wanted to finish this bit by noting stuff about zero waste – yes it is very possible and we need to engineer waste policies that work towards that – indeed join the growing number of countries and Councils who are serious about getting there – let’s get our local Councils signed up to a Manifesto for Zero Waste.

    But we also need to recognise the challenge. Consider for example asbestos – very popular as an insulating material, and present in all sorts of construction in large amounts until we woke up to its inherent problems, and banned it in the late 70’s / early 80’s. Yet asbestos waste continues to be produced in significant quantities in the UK, and will be produced for the next 40-50 years.

    It’s a ‘Legacy Waste’. Probably the best practicable environmental option for this material, given that it is inert, and its only hazardous property is that it produces respirable fibres is landfill? The only other option for asbestos really is plasma arc gasification, which can turn asbestos waste into glass. This is great but hugely expensive – what price can we put on clearing up our mess?

    Realistically I don’t see zero waste happening much before about 2050 or so even with a concerted effort – but we should also be aware new technologies are coming along all the time. Anyway to that Glos Green party bit:

    Philosophical Basis
    1. Waste is the wrong word. What we are talking about is discarded resources that will become increasingly valuable and / or scarce with time.
    2. Because of the way we currently live, many critical natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce, and some, such as oil, will soon run out.
    3. Whether we want to or not, society is going to have to change the way it views finite and dwindling resources. This is not a theory; it is a simple observation of fact.
    4. What we currently have to recycle or discard points to where our present ways of using resources are failing.
    5. In nature, materials flow in local, closed loops with zero waste. We believe that society’s discarded materials flow should emulate nature, which implies dealing with waste close to it’s arising i.e. at the local level, with time preferably at neighbourhood and household level wherever possible.
    6. The path to a long term solution, let us say by 2050, will coincide with very different models of society and modes of living that will have been forced upon us by circumstances. We do not believe that it is possible to predict our circumstances in 2050 to two places of decimals, and hence our waste management solutions must be very flexible in terms of coping with unexpected and unpredictable change. They must also be flexible in terms of taking advantage of advances in techniques and technology.
    7. Our goal is therefore to have driven waste largely out of the system by 2050, with a goal of at least 95% re-use of what, by then, continues to be discarded.

    See more at:

  15. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    Here is Ro J’s song for Cllr Phillip , John C and Mr/Mrs Green..(all very knowledgable and passionate in this area) which emcompasses the whole concerns/solutions.

    VERSE 1:

    In this world of insanity
    We just need a little purity
    We are sick with pollution
    And we don’t want their solution
    We’re not asking for charity
    All we want is some clarity
    Burning waste for the sake of wealth
    Makes no sense if you lose you health

    BRIDGE: If and when you get old the story’s already been told


    That it was Madness to burn our waste
    It was Madness it was done in haste
    It was Madness to burn our waste
    It was a sad, sad waste of our resources
    It was a sad, sad waste of our resources

    VERSE 2:

    When you burn certain articles
    The smoke contains nano-particles
    Scrubbing the air only makes it worse
    They get in your lungs and they’re a curse
    What are we leaving to our children?
    A poison potion in a leaky cauldron?
    It’s killing babies and the Human Race
    Do I need to say it’s a damned disgrace?

    Repeat Bridge and Chorus

    VERSE 3:
    We must give up incineration
    And be the clean generation
    We gotta reduce, recycle and reuse
    The Earth’s not ours for us to abuse
    Looking back on all of Man’s mistakes
    We’ve all seen what a mess He makes
    So now it’s time to apply the brakes
    And save ourselves a lot of heartaches

    Repeat Bridge and Chorus

    It was Madness to burn our waste
    It was a sad, sad waste of our resources
    It was a sad, sad waste of our resources
    It was a sad, sad waste of my resources
    It was a sad, sad waste of your resources

  16. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    After 5 years of campaigning (John Costigane has been campaigning longer-fantastic) -the 3 voices that are really worth listening to on this debate are:

    Prof. Paul Connett -Zero Waste
    Peter Jones OBE – better Energy from Waste
    Dr Dick van Steenis – Health/Emissions

    Prof. Paul Connett’s UK presentations at Coventry, Oxford, Invergordon and Shropshire makes a huge case for not choosing any CHP combustion/ incineration based bids.


  17. John Costigane says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your experiences as well. My interest has been more recent, much like the Green family, following Zero Waste and the many related items.

    The 3 people you listed have all been leading examples for others to follow. The debate has certainly moved on in the last few years and there should be further advances with breakthroughs in new areas.

  18. Jo says:

    The root of the problem with waste is an increasing population conditioned to consume “products” as a lifestyle. Look at the current advertising for Christmas presents! What percentage of these items will become waste in a years time? Unless the whole way society exists changes, I’m afraid I’m very pessimistic about reducing the amount of waste. The “green” ideal is so far from the mainstream of modern life.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    @Jo: hi Jo, welcome to the site and thanks for your comment. I agree with your thoughts about consumerism.

    We are indeed raised to consume and discard; it’s what makes the Western world go around.

    Christmas is an excellent example; especially with ‘pound shops’ for us to fill the kids stockings with. Most items are bought for that quick fix, for the wow factor, but with little thought to lasting effects.

    However, there are many more people making conscious consumer choices, and I’m heartened by that. I have to be otherwise I wouldn’t have the stamina to keep the site running 😉

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