Cheshire to consider burning waste plastics via gasification

15 August 2003

Cheshire county council should opt for gasification to dispose of its mixed waste plastics, one of its councillors has said, writes Caroline Morley.

The county's Environment Advisory Committee will discuss the issue on September 3, 2003, following a request to do so by Councillor Derek Bould.

Cllr Bould called for the council to look at the energy recovery process for the county's plastics after general plastic collection containers were replaced with bottle-only facilities at his local recycling centre. The councillor told letsrecycle.com that Andrew Needam, executive member for the environment at the council, is "very supportive" of a proper debate into energy from waste and its suitability for Cheshire.

Cheshire has recently placed plastic bottle-only bring banks in its household waste and recycling centres under a new collection contract. Mr Bould said that since the move to collect bottles only, he has received a "tremendous backlash from the public", who would like to see all waste plastics collected.

Mr Bould said: "Residents, including myself, were concerned that only plastic bottles could be deposited, which is not the case, but as I started investigating further into the topic I discovered that all grades of plastic can be turned into a 'waste-to-energy' source."

He explained that when he spoke to council officers he discovered that the change in collection was due to a change in contractor. The original contractor, working only for Congleton borough council, had collected all plastic waste. However, while sorting out the bottles for recycling, the rest of the plastics had been landfilled.

The plastics from bottle banks in recycling sites across the county now go to Midland Glass, near Nottingham, who collect the material for reprocessing. The new contractors have a shredder built in to the collection vehicle which means they can only collect plastic bottles.

Gasification
Cllr Bould expressed particular interest in gasification for the county's plastics waste, as an alternative to recycling. Gasification technology turns waste into a gas in the absence of oxygen, which is then burned to generate heat or electricity. With plastics, the gaseous fuel resulting from the process has similar properties to natural gas.

"I understand that in Denmark, Switzerland and other European countries, a process – not incineration – is used to produce a gas from plastics waste," Cllr Bould said, "This may then be used to generate power for the commercial market. This should be looked at in detail for Cheshire, because it has all-round advantages, combining recycling and helping the environment."

Cheshire county council has estimated that 14% of its household waste is plastic the equivalent of 61,000 tonnes per year.

The county has been set government recycling targets of 33% by 2005, but to reach these targets Cheshire will need to double its current rates. Cheshire authorities have formed a partnership called the Waste Task Group to draw up a draft strategy to "reduce the vast tonnage of waste sent to landfill sites whilst increasing recycling and composting to meet government targets."

The strategy includes the intention to review energy from waste as an option for Cheshire's waste (see letsrecycle.com story).