A new £600m incinerator will be better for the environment than sending waste to landfill, the building company has claimed, as construction continues.
The plant at Rivenhall, near Braintree, Essex, will generate electricity by burning non-recyclable waste from 2025.
Campaigners are concerned about air pollution and falling recycling rates.
“Residual waste is being landfilled, which is the worst thing you can do in terms of climate change,” said John Ahern of waste company Indaver.
“Cremation is improvement.”
“Solving a Problem”
He said about half the cost of the waste-to-energy project, at a former air base, went to gas cleaning technology and environmental control.
“We can’t just burn things, we’re not allowed to 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 term we have to look at the waste we produce, we have to get better.
“We’re solving a problem that exists now.”
Planning permission for the building was granted by Essex County Council in 2010, with planning permission granted by the Environment Agency in 2020.
The company said it would burn 595,000 tons of garbage from across the region each year and generate enough electricity for 60,000 households.
Construction began in March last year and initially involved moving three million tonnes of soil, Mr Ahern said.
Ten large lorries delivering boring and piling machinery from Nottingham passed through villages near the site this week.
Mr Ahern said they had not encountered any problems and there would be three more “processions” before the end of the year.
James Abbott, a Greens councilor who represented wards near the site, described what Mr Ahern had said as “greenwashing”.
He added that the site would produce 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, making it the single largest 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 it’s not supposed to produce pollution at a level that will harm human health, but that’s very controversial and those limits are constantly changing.”
Campaign group Parishes Against Incineration said it would continue to protest as construction continues.
Nick Unsworth, from the group and also an independent regional councilor for Braintree, said: “We have a longer-term plan, which we are exploring, to take the lead in our own air quality monitoring.”
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