An incinerator hidden in an eco park

26 October 2010

Jonathan Essex, Green Party councillor from Redhill in East Surrey, went to the first open public meeting about Surrey County Council’s proposed new ‘EcoPark’ in Shepperton on 20 October.

Surrey proposes to locate an updated incinerator at the household waste tip in Charlton Lane.

Jonathan said “We were shocked to hear Surrey Waste Management admit the emissions would be “no less than any other type of thermal treatment plant”.

“What has finally been made public is that emissions from this ‘gasification plant’ will be just as bad as they would have been for the incinerator they wanted at Capel!”

By 2013/4, there will be a 49 metre chimney burning 60,000 tonnes of the waste that cannot be recycled – including the plastics that create dioxins – and other Energy-from-Waste plants across Surrey (see notes 4 and 5 below).

Jonathan added: “Landscaping this incinerator in a so-called ‘EcoPark’ is just Green-Wash. This is certainly not World Class Waste Management. World-class means zero waste without incineration, and that means not just recycling, but re-use. They do it elsewhere, and so can we!

“It’s good that Surrey now have plans to achieve 70% recycling, something that’s been standard practice across Europe for years. But to say you are dropping incinerators, and then announce a new one is to repeat a mistake made in London ten years ago.” (see notes 2 and 3 below)

“The expert witness from SITA (the company that runs Surrey Waste Management), said the proposed gasification plant is “not any less polluting than any other thermal treatment plant”.

“We agree! It’s just as polluting as the incinerators SITA runs elsewhere in the UK.”

“A real EcoPark would create jobs in the reuse, repair and re-manufacture of materials that would otherwise be wasted. And composting of food waste can be done more efficiently at existing local sewage treatment plants.

“There’s absolutely no advantage in co-locating an incinerator in a recycling centre.

“Incidentally, this ‘new’ design of incinerator was so efficient it corroded away the boiler when it was first used in Scotland.”

Notes to Editors

For further information and comment:
Jonathan Essex - 07801 541924
Sarah Finch - 07870 823485

1. The government follows the European Union in classifying ‘Gasification Technology’ as Energy from Waste and (see the WRAP Gate Fees Report 2009, Comparing the cost of alternative waste treatment options).

2. Responding to the question where this has been done before, Jean-Claude Sartenaer, Advanced Thermal Treatment Technology expert for SITA, at Surrey County Council’s Oversight and Scrutiny Meeting (held by Spelthorne Borough Council on 20th October 2010), noted that similar examples of energy from waste and material recycling facilities being built together include Edmonton, Lewisham and Kirklees. These are all incinerators, and Edmonton is already branded as an EcoPark. He added, “It is not unusual that thermal treatment plants are located in towns, even in the UK, such as Huddersfield, Edmonton and SELCHP.

3. The three Eco-parks given as examples by Surrey Waste Management are all Incinerators:

(a) Edmonton Incinerator is officially called the London EcoPark and includes an incinerator, recycling and a visitor centre ( and

(b) Kirklees Incinerator and visitor centre ( and

(c) SELCHP energy recovery facilitator in South East London (

4. Surrey’s latest waste plan estimates 160,000 tonnes of waste to burn:
This plans for new ‘energy from waste’ facilities for 160,000 tonnes of waste a year by 2013/4, with 60,000 tonnes of waste to burn at the Charlton Lane site in Shepperton.(
This means that 100,000 tonnes must be dealt with on some or all of 19 other sites identified, such as Guildford and Redhill.

Currently Surrey exports 100,000 tonnes of waste each year to the Allington incinerator near Maidstone.

5. The meeting noted that just 35% of responses to proposed EcoPark plans were positive.

The plans are for 15 acres landscaping, a 49 metre high chimney (rather than the previous proposed 85m chimney for the larger incinerator proposed at Trumps Farm).

The chimney was claimed to be designed to provide 'a point of interest at ground level' and had received comments from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment as “a successful piece of
architecture”. It was noted that the Spelthorne Borough’s landscape and biodiversity officers spent a lot of time on this – “not to creatt a man-made screen” but to “break up the views by planting in depth”.

6. The presenters noted that this included a digestor to take 40,000 tonnes of food waste, which if a reduction of food waste thrown away happens (as has occurred where food waste collections have been introduced elsewhere) would mean shipping food across all of Surrey. Much smaller plants (such as 10,000 tonnes/year) have been shown to be viable elsewhere and would remove much HGV movements.

7. The chimney height was noted as fixed to balance visual impact and air quality impact – there is greater dispersal if higher. This means there is no margin of error; that if the plant turns out to emit more pollutants than planned (as has happened to the original design in Dumfries, Scotland) or have a changed mix with more plastics, for example, as recycling levels continue to improve or if one of the 15 tonne batches of material burned each day had more plastics or other polluting material, then the emissions will exceed planned levels.

These planned levels are already expected to exceed legislation (see below, full details expected with Air Pollution Report to accompany the planning application expected at the end of October). Spelthorne is
already is a heavily polluted borough, where maximum recommended levels of Nitrogen Dioxide are already exceeded. The plant has been designed to emit half the maximum permitted under EU legislation on rates of pollution for incinerators.

8. Although the plant is claimed to produce ‘zero waste’, the SITA experts confirmed that 23% of the tonnage burned ends up as ash (the intended end use for this ash was not revealed) and 3% ends up as toxic sludge (known as ‘Air Pollution Control Residues’) which is put into special bags and sent to one of six or seven ‘special treatment centres’ in the UK. The Green Party has learned these are toxic waste landfill sites, the nearest to Surrey being in Gloucestershire. So Surrey must be planning to send around 1% of its waste to be sent to toxic landfills near Gloucester.

9. The discussions on traffic at the meeting treated HGV journeys as equivalent to car movements in their impact.

10. The cost of this plant is estimated at £50 million, budgeted as long term finance paid to SITA on contract and so, technically, not directly funded by the taxpayer. Surrey County Council is responsible for community recycling centres and the disposal of all municipal waste. SITA has a contract with Surrey to “provide infrastructure to deal with household waste – paid for by central government grant, specific government grants and council tax”.

SITA bears the risk for cost over-runs. They will own the plant until 2024, after which it is transferred to SCC. SITA was awarded the contract for building the plant in 1999, on the basis of what was best value for
money then. They still have to show value for money through their operations.

11. Under the recent Comprehensive Spending Review, specific grants (the Private Finance Initiative) to subsidise waste disposal (as opposed to reuse and recycling) have just been scrapped for seven other waste authorities across the UK (

12. The only plant operating like this at the moment is in Dumfries, run by Scotgen. SITA confirmed: “This is the main reference for this project. They have been operating the plant since November 2009.

The boiler selected was not suitable and has had problems of corrosion and fouling”.

Jonathan Essex comments –“Presumably this is due to the higher level of pollutants in the emissions than expected in the design of the plant”. The Dumfries plant has also consistently breached emission limits over its first months of operation. It was not confirmed whether this plant has the same mix of waste that is proposed to be burnt in Surrey. The air pollution expert present (Mark Broomfield) noted that “the case for gasification with Dumfries not performing to design does knock confidence”.

13. There were concerns about what happens about emissions landing on nearby reservoirs and affecting wildlife and water supply.

14. SITA said emissions were mainly nitrogen dioxide, water vapour, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, as “with any other combustion” such as Heathrow or car engines.

“Specifics to incineration of waste” include a small number of heavy metals and dioxins.

The tall chimney does not stop the pollution but disperses the gases less intensely over a larger area, so that the planned pollution is only 1% more than background levels in the long term or 10% over background levels in the short-term. The only exceptions of this are emissions of three heavy metals, 2-5% in the long term, but this is “considered insignificant in terms of the background context”. The plan is to only check emissions of the heavy metals and dioxins every three months.

15. The Green Party notes that the term ‘Energy from Waste’ is misleading and the term ‘Energy Recovery’, as used to describe the incinerator in South London is more accurate as this is only around 20% efficient, and therefore emits twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated as a coal fired power station.

RSS Feed Federation of Surrey Green Parties RSS Feed

Back to main page