A new £600m incinerator will be better for the environment than sending rubbish to landfill, the company building it claims, while construction continues.
The factory in Rivenhall, near Braintree, Essex, will generate electricity from 2025 by incinerating non-recyclable waste.
Campaigners are concerned about air pollution and reducing recycling rates.
“Residual waste is landfilled, which is the worst thing you can do from a climate change perspective,” says John Ahern of waste company Indaver.
“Burning is an improvement.”
‘Solve a problem’
He said about half of the cost of the waste-to-energy project, at a former airbase, went to gas cleaning technology and environmental control.
“We can’t just burn things, we can’t pollute,” he told BBC Essex.
“[Society] produces too much waste [worldwide]and the UK is not self-sufficient in generating its own electricity – we rely on fossil fuels.
“In the long run, we have to look at the waste we generate, we have to get better.
“We are solving a problem that exists now.”
Planning permission for the building was granted by Essex County Council in 2010, with an operating permit approved by the Environment Agency in 2020.
The company said it would incinerate 595,000 tons of waste from across the region annually and generate enough electricity for 60,000 households.
Construction began in March last year and initially involved moving three million tons of soil, Mr Ahern said.
Ten oversized trucks delivering drilling and pile drivers from Nottingham passed through villages near the site this week.
Mr Ahern said they had not encountered any problems and that three more “processions” would take place before the end of the year.
James Abbot, a Green district councilor representing wards near the site, described what Mr Ahern had said as “green wash”.
He added that the site would produce 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, making it the largest single producer of CO2 in Essex.
“It will have a huge negative impact on climate change,” he said.
“It will reduce air quality.
“The rules are that the intent is not to cause pollution at levels that harm human health, but that’s highly controversial and those limits keep changing.”
Campaign group Parishes Against Incineration said it would continue to protest as construction continues.
Nick Unsworth, of the group and also an independent Braintree district councillor, said: “We have a longer-term plan, which we are exploring, to begin our own air quality monitoring.”
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