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Capitalist Crisis Creates 'shortfall in waste' in Sheffield.

IMC Sheffield | 05.12.2012 15:16 | Climate Chaos | Ecology | Sheffield

Sheffielders have been diligently sorting their waste for recycling for many years. The idea is to reduce waste going to Landfill and Incineration. As a reward for all their diligence Sheffielders will now have to put up with Veolia importing even more waste from further afield to an Incinerator built in the heart of their City.

Keep the monster caged
Keep the monster caged

Will Planners see the light
Will Planners see the light

Houses in Wybourn downwind of Bernard Rd
Houses in Wybourn downwind of Bernard Rd

Some History of the Bernard Road Incinerator

Up until 2001 the Bernard Road Incinerator was run by Sheffield City Council, it was privatised following the inability of the Council to pay for upgrading/rebuilding the plant to meet pollution standards, in particular filtering Dioxins and Heavy Metals out of the flue gasses. In May 2001 Greenpeace released a press release, : NEW REPORT REVEALS INCINERATORS COMMITTING HUNDREDS OF POLLUTION CRIMES which pointed out that the Sheffield Incinerator was the worst in England having breached legal limits on emissions in 1999 and 2000 of HCL (hydrochloric acid) 33 times, SO2 (sulphur dioxide) 12 times, NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) 99 times and CO2 (carbon dioxide) The Greenpeace campaign included Greenpeace volunteers occupying the 75-metre chimney of the Bernard Road incinerator and rubbish tipping hall for three days. The Greenpeace action was vindicated in June the same year when Onyx ( who became Veolia around 2006) the site operator closed the plant down.

In August 2001 waste disposal in Sheffield was privatised with Onyx/Veolia taking on a 35 year contract worth £1.3 billion.

When planning permission was granted for the 225,000 tonne replacement incinerator for Sheffield in 2002 (ref. 01/1035/FUL) Onyx claimed that they would have no trouble getting hold of enough waste from Sheffield to incinerate at the plant. Campaign groups objected, protesting against the new plant starting construction as it was seen as being stupidly large, toxic and built upwind of a large population centre. The plant was however built and came on-stream in April 2006. Veolia, the Israeli settlement profiteer have now made another application to vary Condition 3 of permission 01/10135/FUL.

Condition 3 of permission 01/10135/FUL was taken by campaign groups to be an assurance given by Bernard Road's operator that no waste would need to be imported into Sheffield to feed the new 225,000 tonne plant, however Veolia see Condition 3, which was also changed in 2011 with opposition, to allow more feedstock from outside the catchment area, differently.

Veolia's 57 page Full Supporting Statement to Vary Condition 3

Veolia's full supporting statement contains the word "sustainable" 42 times in it's 57 pages and the word "renewable" 47 times. yet strangely for a Capitalist venture its document has no occurrence of the word "profit". Which suggests to me that Veolia are being dishonest in their full supporting document. What Veolia are trying to spin to the planning authorities is a tale of great benefits to the community that are "renewable", "sustainable" and "efficient". Perhaps this is what CEO Antoine Frérot meant when he said "Veolia have to change the narrative", it is Greenwash of the worst kind. As for their description of the environmental impact of moving an extra 15,000 tonnes of waste from greater distances, it can at best be described as a hand wave, oh we'll use bigger trucks ....

In their application Veolia don't mention the environmental impact that is on going with this toxin factory, the unknown tonnes of limestone from Buxton, the tens of tonnes of activated carbon, made from coal in China or Coconuts in SriLanka, or the 4600+ tonnes of fly ash, the 40,000+ tonnes of bottom ash, the 6,000+ tonnes of recovered steel that all needs moving, or the 150,000+ tonnes (60,000+ of which are Greenhouse gasses) that goes up the flue, (figures rounded from Veolia's 2011 report) that this poisonous process produces perrenially at the heart of this City. We just have to remember that what Veolia are doing for us is for our own good, i.e. breathing in and living with all that shit is good for us. None of this massive impact will be reduced or ameliorated by granting this application, infact it'll get ever so slightly worse. Veolia maintain the impact would be minimal, well they would wouldn't they. They imply that nothing will change, it's all for the best. Thus contradicting their own spin about great benefits to the community that are we are told, "sustainable" "renewable" and "efficient". There are no benefits for Sheffielders just profits for Veolia. There will be no improvement to a situation that in the Council's own words requires "remedial action" from this more of the same, application .

Clearly the evolution of controls on Landfill and Incineration over the past decade along with the waste hierarchy, indicate which way global consensus is going on Landfill and Incineration. it's being phased out, got rid of, Zero Waste is the "sustainable" goal. Veolia are bucking that trend by increasing feedstocks arising from outside Sheffield, they are unwilling to take a cut in profits to allow even the most basic waste separation. They've stupidly contracted to run a 225,000 tonne p/a Incinerator for 35 years, this is poor business planning a failure to see where the trends in waste management were heading, recognised to some extent in their current restructuring of the business. They have to keep feeding the monster built in the centre of our City for it to be "efficient". But hey there's nothing new here, this is the insanity of Global Corporatism, they "have" to do these things for those VIPs the investors, remember those folks have to come first.

What reward then for Sheffielders diligently separating their waste for recycling?. Well as Veolia point out there will be no benefit to Sheffielders for their efforts, things will get ever so slightly worse, particularly (no pun intended)for those living near landfills and downwind of the stack.

Campaign groups and NGO's recommended that if the new incinerator was to be built the size should remain the same i.e. 125,000 tpa these recommendations were based on sound reasoning i.e. the trends in waste management were recognised, but the recommendation was ignored, the 225,000 tonne capacity plant was built and now has a "shortage of waste" arising in it's catchment, but campaigners, Veolia, Onyx, Sheffiled City Council, et al, all knew that in all probability there always would be a "shortage of waste" at the Bernard Road Incinerator, given the trend in waste management when the plant was approved.

Suddenly there is a shortage of waste in Sheffield. Why the sudden appearance of the shortage? Are we hoarding more? Squirreling away things that might be useful when the shit really does hit the fan for Capitalism? Well the recyclates (the products of recycling) market is very jittery at the moment with uncertain demand and pressure on supply, the result of the Capitalist crisis. Sheffield City Council say they can't afford to maintain Veolia's profits by paying for the pre-separation of waste, for valuable recyclates like Aluminum. Veolia's and other global waste corporation's profits from recycling have become uncertain and they are looking to more stable profitable areas like Incineration to maintain margins for investors.

The real reason then that Sheffielders will have to put up with more pollutants from the transportation and incineration of more waste and increased production of toxic ash for landfill is to maintain profits and pay the debts of a Global Corporate entity, this was what Mussolini advocated, his third way, neo-liberal state corporatism of the worse kind, Toxic ash is OK so long as those more important people, the investors and creditors desires are met. After all we all know by now, after the Bankster fraud, humans that occupy themselves by investing in Corporations or in running banks are more important than the rest of us. How many of those investors live in Sheffield? Are we to have our health and environment degraded further to satisfy these investors? Is that what democracy means to Sheffield Councilors? The interests of investors put above the health and environmental quality of Sheffielders?. What is in their job description that lets them think that that is somehow OK?

Veolia has debt problems and recently sold off its US solid waste management arm for around $2 billion. it also plans to sell off assets worth €4 billion between 2010 and 2013. Veolia share prices have also been on a roller-coaster since 2007 €65 to 2011 €10. The former CEO Henri Proglio grew the business into more risky areas without addressing the company’s legacy of debt, one analyst said of the company recently, "I don’t know what sort of rubbish they have in their portfolio", well we do, we live with one, the Bernard Road Incinerator it's just one item of "rubbish ... in their portfolio". Veolia are also in the process of reducing the number of countries they operate in down to 40 from 77. Perhaps the reason then for Veolia's sudden "waste shortage" in Sheffield is more to do with Veolia's business restructuring plans, because of the errors they made in the past, like investing in a 225,000 tpa Incinerator built in the middle of an urban population centre? Veolia's CEO Antoine Frérot described the new plan in August 2011

"I have decided to accelerate the restructuring of our activities and supplement the transformation of Veolia Environnement with a convergence plan in order to increase synergies between our businesses and further reduce costs."

So really is this new application about Veolia restructuring or the sudden onset of the great Sheffield "waste shortage" that every one with any idea of what the word "sustainable" actually means, knew would exist right from the start of this un-sane, build a large toxic production plant in the middle of a dense population centre, project. The planned increase in non-local waste tonnage has therefore nothing to do with a "waste shortage" but rather to do with Veolia increasing "synergies", reducing costs at a projected rate of €250 million per year, asset dumping, paying off debt to evil banksters and maintaining returns for investors who really don't give a flying f**k for increased infant mortality rates or the shit they pump into our air and into our lungs or the tonnes of toxic ash being buried at a landfill near you.

A "shortage of waste" for Incineration is a problem to a market based capitalist venture that profits from waste Incineration, but good news for the environment a shortage of waste for incineration in Sheffield is a victory for campaigners, it should be a thing of celebration, to the Capitalist waste is growth, so we must carry on with insane incineration, poisoning the environment with toxic fly ash or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) all to satisfy remote investors in waste, well they are more important human beings after all. What makes the insanity more acute is that the need for profit actually discourages recycling which is more labour intensive and so less profitable. Here we see very directly how neo-liberal "free market" ideology and legislative corporatists damage the environment and the people living in that environment.

The most toxic part of what comes out of Bernard Road is the fly-ash and the particulates in the flue gas. Dioxins are a well known toxin though still not entirely researched, they are second only to nuclear in their toxicity, low levels of dioxin are continuously accumulated in the environment from burning stuff, the longer we burn the worse it gets. PAHs that are known to be a strong carcinogen are not required to be monitored at all by Veolia at Bernard Road. Too little is known about PAHs to be able to decide which ones should be monitored and controlled, yet up the flue they go along with the other under researched particles and gasses. Apparently the UK does little or no monitoring for PM1 or PM2.5 the particulates associated with highly toxic carcinogens, for PM2.5s 35% escape through the filters according to the Environment Agency (EA) in 2010 & 2011 and for PM1s 90% escape through filters (EA 2010 & 2011). The point is, and this point is the reason for the trend in waste management i.e. to move away from Landfill and Incineration and towards Zero Waste, as more Science is done the more toxins and carcinogens are "discovered" the more technology and energy is required to eliminate these toxic by-products of burning. Its why reuse, recycling, composting and prevention are up the hierarchy of waste and why Incineration and Landfill are at the bottom, Landfill and Incineration are clearly not a "sustainable" option, despite Veolia's claims to the contrary in the Greenwash of their application.

2005: Local Residents Fight Parkwood Landfill Expansion Proposals

Sheffield's Air Pollution Problem

The air quality limits are already not being met in parts of the city close to or downwind of the Incinerator. The Veolia application does nothing at all to help this already chronic problem, in fact in their own document they state at best it won't make any difference at all or will make it a tiny bit worse. Given that Sheffield City Council admits that on air quality the whole of Sheffield fails to meet the "standards and objectives in the national Air Quality Strategy" and has designated the City an "Air Quality Management Area " (AQMA) and say they are going to "prepare and implement remedial action plans to tackle the problem", this application if allowed will do nothing to help "remedial action plans" in fact Veolia say it will make it a tiny bit more difficult to for the Council to "prepare and implement remedial action plans"

Some of the worst levels of N02 in Sheffield for 2006 to 2008 are found on London Road, Queens Road and Chesterfield Road and Manchester Road, Witham Road and Western Bank, The Wicker and Kelham Island, the City Centre, Barnsley Road The 2010 Objective (ug/m3) for NO2 = 20 in the Cotswolds, for Sheffield the limit was set at 40 in 2010. I think the Cotswolds have more Investors' holiday cottages and second homes hence the lower limit.

Bernard Road is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in Sheffield at a rate of 8 tonnes per hour which accounts for some 3% of the Sheffield total. These levels could be cut with a (less profitable) waste sorting strategy, currently only metals that can be sorted with a large magnet are removed from the ash. Dioxin emissions are self inspected twice a year by Veolia and once a year by the Environment Agency. Dioxin emission was virtually unchecked in the old plant. The new plant is now said to have a rate of dioxin emission at 2% of the limits. This number is estimated (no one knows how) from the constant monitoring of other emissions from the plant and the 3 measurements taken yearly (only one of which is independent).

The method used to remove dioxins and heavy metals is activated carbon being added to the flue gass after it has been through the water boiler. The data I have seen from one activated carbon manufacturer (Jacobi Carbons ) achieved 70% of the limits for their best product (DioxSorb BP2), tested in a similar 22 tonnes per hour municipal waste to energy incinerator over three years. The temperature at the point of injection was 130 degrees which optimises adsorption efficiency, From the information available from Veolia they inject at ~160 degrees which is therefore less efficient . How Veolia then manage to achieve an average of 2% of the limit with the same technology is a question that arises. If all the Dioxin and Dioxin like outputs (which are reported as having no limits in the 2011 data) are summed the average 2% rises to an average 59% of the limit which is closer, but still lower than Jacobi Carbon's data which was obtained at a more optimal temperature.

Just to be clear Veolia report "average" outputs for Dioxins and their ilke, this average is based on 3 spot measurements taken in a year and a number inferred from the averages of the other outputs with HCl presumably being a prime indicator. Veolia's reported Dioxin data is an order of magnitude less than results achieved by Jacobi Carbon in optimal conditions in a similar plant. How does Veolia achieve this?. HCl outputs were at an average of ~72% of the limits in 2011 with NOX at an average 80% of the limit, we are not told the Maxima or Minima of these outputs. A 2% average of the dioxin limit is about 2% too much dioxin as this stuff accumulates and is very toxic, Bernard Road exceeded output limits 3 times in 2011, we are not told by how much or which limits were exceeded in their 2011 report.

The planning decision will be made in January or February 2013. Let the planners know how you feel about the Incinerator by e-mailing Howard Baxter with the reference number Ref no: 12/03137/FUL

FOE response to the current application

Incineration campaigns spread around the country like wildfire

RABID Residents Against Bernard Road Incinerator Damage.

FOI research showing 10% higher infant mortality rates in wards downwind of incinerators.

Veolia Predict longterm shortfall for Sheffield Incinerator

Greens proved right

Tinsley Campaign

Heeley Air "Quality"

IMC Sheffield


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  1. Burning recyclable material — Shlomo Dowen