Anaerobic digestion plant: Open letter to the Bury Times
4:50pm Wednesday 16th October 2013 in News
We have been following closely the vigorous and often emotive debate among local politicians and people on the anaerobic digestion (AD) facility proposed by Marshall and Peel Environmental at Fletcher Bank Quarry.
It is absolutely right that people raise concerns about a technology potentially being deployed in their community for the first time. Equally, it is important that the facts are not lost or give way to myth and misinformation.
The UK has a food waste problem: Food scraps, leftovers and other organic waste typically make up 30-60% of all our household waste in the UK. By 2018, it’s predicted that all of the UK’s landfill sites will be completely full.
There are several excellent initiatives to reduce the amount of waste created; Bury County Council themselves have recently called on local people to recycle more to help save money, with waste disposal costing the council more than £13 million a year. Yet this waste exists and will need to go somewhere.
Beyond landfill, there are two main other ways of managing food waste: composting and AD. An AD plant offers unique benefits beyond preventing thousands of tonnes of food waste being landfilled each year. It captures a natural biogas produced in controlled, airtight conditions, and produces a natural, nutrient-rich biofertiliser that meets stringent quality standards set out by Government (BSI PAS 110).
Furthermore, AD is a far more controlled process than open windrow composting, with much greater effort and investment made to ensure that the effects are benign.
AD is not new; its benefits are being realised across Europe, particularly in Germany where there are around 7,000 AD plants, operating safely within the communities where they are situated and from which they draw much of their feedstock. Moreover, the Green Party here in the UK supports AD, and the UK Government itself is committed to increasing energy from waste through anaerobic digestion in its ‘Anaerobic Digestion strategy and action plan’.
Recently, we have seen some inaccurate assumptions, misunderstandings and outlandish statements regarding the environmental performance of the proposed facility. I am writing to address these directly, dealing in facts.
The proposed facility is completely safe. It will meet and exceed the highest standards set by the national regulatory bodies, the Environment Agency (Environmental Permit), the Animal Health organisation (Site License), and WRAP (PAS110 digestate standards). We duplicate critical safety systems and build fail-safe processes into our plants to ensure that in the event of maintenance or even breakdown, the plant can continue to function in a clean and safe manner. In the worst case event of a serious problem, as a national operator of AD facilities, we would be able to divert materials to other facilities until the matter is resolved. At no point would we ever wish or need to operate the facility to anything less than the highest standards.
We are aware that there is wider concern locally regarding odour but we would like to reassure people that claims of “a stench hanging over Ramsbottom” are completely inaccurate at best, and likely to cause unnecessary alarm and distress among others at worst.
The facility would have stringent odour, noise and traffic control measures in place. For instance, you can typically walk around directly outside a modern and well managed AD plant and experience little or no odour at all. This is the case at the Barkip AD facility, constructed by one of our suppliers, which is an excellent example of a very similar set-up, to which we invited local councillors for a site visit. Furthermore, our regulator, the Environment Agency, will impose conditions that require that no unacceptable emissions, including odour, escape the site boundary.
The application is for a clean, modern, efficient facility that will make beneficial use of by-products of the food industry — material that has previously been a burden and now should be viewed as a resource. It has been carefully designed and sited to cause a minimum of disruption. As well as securing local generation of power, and supporting a facility at Marshalls that employs well over 100 local people, the facility will directly and indirectly support new jobs locally, and will not detrimentally affect the surrounding area. The plant represents an investment in the area in excess of £10m. It is also a highly responsible way of dealing with waste that has broader environmental benefits, both as a renewable energy that contributes to the UK’s energy needs and reduces demand on fossil fuels, and in cutting the reliance on manufactured fertilisers.
Any company trades on its reputation, and at Tamar Energy, we understand that we have a corporate responsibility, not just to our employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers, but to the communities we work in. This is why we are so keen that the application, which is available online for everyone to read, is considered fairly, on its own merits and does not become politicised. We will be contacting people locally with more information in the coming weeks. We continue to be available to answer any questions and address concerns about the proposed facility, or about AD in general, by email at email@example.com, by freephone on 0800 840 1229 or by post at FREEPOST TAMAR ENERGY.
David Walsh Tamar Energy
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