East Ayrshire Council says it is in favour of a local waste to energy plant to reduce its carbon footprint – but has stopped short of backing the controversial Killoch incinerator.
The issue was raised during a presentation on climate change to EAC cabinet.
It revealed that almost half of the council’s carbon emissions came as a result of waste.
However, a ‘gamechanger’ in the form of a new waste to energy contract signed in May, could all but wipe that out, reducing EAC’s overall carbon footprint by half.
In 2022/23 alone, the council expects a 20 to 30 percent reduction in waste to landfill.
Contractor Enva processes the waste collected by East Ayrshire’s bin lorries and transforms it into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) at its Linwood depot. A portion of this is sent to Europe where there is a greater demand for RDF use.
It is estimated that around 63 tonnes could be processed into RDF instead of going to landfill.
Conservative group leader, councillor John McFadzean, said he welcomed the approach, but said he was concerned that the council was simply passing on the problem to other places.
He said: “We are going to improve our figures by turning waste to pellets rather than send them to landfill. I can’t see the point in creating these pellets and then shipping them somewhere else.
“We keep speaking within the council, within Scottish Government and at Westminster about saving the world.
“If we create these pellets and ship them somewhere in the world to be burned for energy used. All we are doing is creating a larger carbon footprint.
“It may not directly impact us, although if we send them to Europe, the emissions would probably blow back over our country anyway.”
He added that the ‘we are not solving a problem, we are just moving a problem’ and suggested that the actual fuel created should be used locally.”
James Lally, Transformation lead at EAC, confirmed that the plan was for ‘much more local solution’.
Given the issues and objections to an application for a waste-to-energy plant at Killoch, the Local Democracy Reporting Service asked whether this plan could be seen as tacit support for the Killoch project, should a moratorium on the building of new waste to energy facilities be lifted.
A spokesperson for the council acknowledged the need for a local plan, but insisted that local did not necessarily mean within East Ayrshire.
They said: “As a waste authority, we do need to consider the future implications of changing legislation and our commitment to a net zero agenda.
“Therefore an energy from waste approach like the one we currently have as part of our Waste Management Contract is desirable into the future.
“There is a general agreement that waste should be handled locally, therefore we would welcome the availability of an energy from waste processing plant within the South West Scotland area as this would reduce transportation costs and emissions.
“It would be important to highlight at this stage that we have no preference as to what site, only that there is a need for one within the region.”
Mr Lally had outlined the importance of working to minimise waste in the first place, rather than focusing on treatment.
A residual waste analysis was conducted in March 2021 to identify where improvements could be made. It revealed that around 30 percent of avoidable food waste was going into the residual waste bin.
A campaign has seen the council place stickers on bins, discouraging use of the landfill bin for food waste.
This resulted in a 200 percent increase in the number of requests for replacement food caddies and 12 percent increase in food waste being correctly binned.
A second phase will see advice on trolleys which haven’t got accompanying food caddies, and an increase in community engagement.
The report added: “The move away from landfill signifies the most significant step towards reducing the Council’s carbon footprint since 2012-13.
“Assuming that the methodology and weighting for waste to energy remains the same and that under the new contract all of our residual and industrial waste previously sent to landfill can be processed in this way by 2025, this would deliver a staggering 48 percent reduction in the Council’s overall carbon emissions.”
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