08 Nov Why Energy-from-Waste Plants are Less Harmful than Firework Displays
Indaver shares their insight into the development of energy-from-waste (EfW) over the years and outlines the many ways by which developers work to ensure that their plants do not pose a risk to human health.
The public often worries that energy-from-waste (EfW) plants are causing pollution or lowering air quality in their vicinity. In fact, EfW plants are highly regulated and have strict emission limits on a wide range of parameters; many of which are monitored on a continuous basis. Emissions data can be found in one form or another so that the public can re-assure themselves with regards to what any particular EfW plant is emitting into the atmosphere.
It’s subsequently surprising to find that a large proportion of the public continue to presume that EfW plants pose a significant risk to nearby communities while endorsing commodities that are comparatively more hazardous. For example, while vehicle emissions are controlled by MOT test limits; the number of vehicles on the road and the miles they travel are not limited. This means that the contribution to air pollution of an individual car cannot be known. By comparison, an EfW plant’s effect on air quality can be accurately measured.
Traffic is evidently a concerning source of pollution. But what about enjoyable things like a cosy wood-burning fire, a bonfire or some fireworks? While warming yourself before a bonfire, listening to the crackle of wood and toasting marshmallows, is anybody really worried about the pollution being caused? Of course not. Public displays are carefully managed from a health and safety standpoint, but nothing can control their emissions into the atmosphere.
Bonfire night is purely for entertainment and serves no practical benefit to compensate for any air pollution caused. The limited; tightly controlled emissions to air from an EfW plant, however, are the by-product of a process that has several benefits: disposing of residual, unrecyclable waste; producing ash that can be converted into aggregate for the construction industry; and providing energy in the form of electricity, steam and hot water.
So why are EfW plants often thought to be worse? Maybe it’s because they are huge, industrial buildings and many people have an innate distrust of large companies. On the other hand, nobody assumes their neighbour’s bonfire is having a detrimental effect on air quality. They are seen as controversial by their opponents. But the majority of plants are recommended for planning approval by professional planning officers who assess the facts and gather opinions through consultation, with a wide variety of other experts.