The British government, which earlier this year called for greater use of plastics waste incineration in place of landfill disposal, has approved the construction of one of Europe's biggest waste-to-energy power plants in London.
The 72-megawatt facility, due to start up in 2010, will be built in Belvedere, in southeast London, by Riverside Resource Recovery Ltd. Riverside Resource is a subsidiary of London-based waste disposal company Cory Environmental Ltd.
The plant is designed to burn up to 1.2 billion pounds of household garbage per year, drawn from across London. The material, including plastics waste, would otherwise be disposed of in landfills in counties close to London.
The go-ahead follows more than 15 years of public debate, underlining the contentious nature of such plans in Britain.
Environmentalists condemned the move as a waste of resources and a step backwards in the fight against climate change.
The plant, sited beside the Thames River, will rely heavily on waste shipped by tug-hauled barges. This will save more than 100,000 truck trips a year on the capital's already congested roads, according to Cory. This aspect of the plan was welcomed particularly by Britain's energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, who recently announced the plant's final approval.
Britain's plastics industry leadership praised the project, but was critical of the long delay in getting it approved.
``It's taken far too long to get planning approval for Belvedere,'' said British Plastics Federation director general Peter Davis. ``We have called for a radical reduction in the time taken to process [planning] applications.''
With a population of 8 million, London also needs around eight smaller incineration plants, he said.
Some 75 percent of London's waste goes into landfills, compared to Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, which sends only 4 percent, because of its higher recycling rates and waste-to-energy capacity.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth, based in Brussels, Belgium, said the government should focus on promoting recycling and waste prevention.
``[The plant] will not only end up burning lots of materials that should be recycled, but it will also emit large amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide. Britain still languishes near the bottom of Europe's recycling table - we need to address this and make the most of our waste - not burn it,'' said Friends of the Earth London campaigner Jenny Bates.
Meanwhile, PVC producer Ineos plans to build a 50-megawatt waste-to-energy incinerator to provide heat and power for its chemicals complex in Runcorn, England. The unit, still subject to government approval, is due to be operational by 2010 and will consume domestic refuse, including plastics.
Lyndhurst, England-based Ineos is Europe's largest PVC producer.
``Investing in proven technologies such as energy from waste enables us to diversify our energy portfolio and mitigate some of the effects of extremely high gas costs in the [United Kingdom], which have had a massive adverse effect on our business in recent years,'' said Ineos ChlorVinyls Chief Executive Officer Chris Tane.