Let’s challenge indiscriminate incineration in Lewisham

The following points are from the website of the SELCHP, our local incinerator:

  • Energy is recovered from the waste, supplying
    enough power for 48,000 homes.
  • One tonne of municipal solid waste is equivalent to
    1⁄3 tonne of coal, so the facility has a significant role
    to play in reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Waste is diverted from landfill, helping the residents
    of the London boroughs to meet Government and
    European Directive targets.
  • The SELCHP Energy Recovery Facility was built to serve
    the community where it is located; taking into
    consideration the public’s needs, not only in terms of
    waste disposal, but also through strict control of noise,
    traffic and odour.

    Please notice that this is done to divert waste from landfills in order to help “London boroughs to meet Government and European Directive targets” .

    Let’s repeat these last few words:

    …to meet Government and European Directive targets.

    Unfortunately those Government and European directive targets have also managed to divert from the landfills into the incinerators a few materials that would be much better treated in other ways.

    What do we do now? Do we need to wait for better Government and European Directive targets to improve our practices?

    We currently pay vast sums for huge fleets of lorries that constantly crawl our streets collecting our rubbish for incineration. Arguably they carry about one third of excess baggage. It’s all the kitchen waste that should be composted instead of incinerated.

    Kitchen waste being a very wet material slows down combustion, the result is that much of the very precious by-product of combustion, energy, is lost.

    If you take the kitchen refuse out of the incinerator you produce more energy and that makes more money. Those money can be invested in better treatment of kitchen waste.

    And that is also a thing that should be done as near as possible to where it’s been produced in order to minimize transporting it that’s also an activity that’s intrinsically polluting.

    It’s not meant to sound as a pun but composting can be done at grassroots level. Many people do it in their back gardens and Lewisham is a very green borough with many pockets of land that could be put to good use to compost the waste of those residents that don’t have access to a back garden or are not inclined to compost for any other reason.
    A whole new economy of small operators could flourish. All paid by the savings on incineration.
    It could be as small as somebody composting a few of their neighbour’s kitchen waste in their own back garden, or a community group funding some of their activities by taking charge of a block of flats.

    Maybe I’m going too far, but surely an alternative is possible. I see that in Taiwan they are indeed working in this direction, here’s a paper that makes it very clear and in 2006 Sweden introduced a tax on incineration to encourage recycling and biological treatment. This is a step further than encouraging incineration to reduce landfills.

    Is it possible to fund an alternative through this route here in the London Borough of Lewisham? I don’t know the answer to that question now, but there are ways to find out.

    Lewisham Council is one of the partners of SELCHP and I’m thinking of submitting a series of questions around this issue that they should be able to answer.

    Here’s a first draft of possible questions for the next Full Council meeting (we’re now within deadline to submit for the 29th September meeting so there’s quite some time) and I’d be grateful for any comment that would help define them better (I’d recommend you read about my previous question on kitchen waste in case you haven’t done so already).

  • What is the amount of electricity generated by SELCHP using only waste produced by Lewisham residents and businesses (please specify data for both residential and business use)? Can you also translate this into homes powered so to make an easy comparison with the data advertised by SELCHP that it powers 48,000 homes?
  • How much money does this bring in?
  • What is the efficiency gain that could be achieved if that kitchen waste was not included among the incinerated waste and how would that translate into additional homes powered?
  • Is the SELCHP currently working at full capacity?
  • If part of the load currently incinerated would be diverted towards composting would it be easy to replace it with new customs?
  • On top of the economic issue there is also an holistic one, kitchen waste is alive, it looks just wrong to burn it into ashes when it can regenerate itself into more life, but I believe that if we want to change how things are done the economic argument gives a better guarantee of success. Anyway, to finish this post here’s some basics of composting.


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    7 Responses to “Let’s challenge indiscriminate incineration in Lewisham”

    1. links for 2008-07-16 « Someday I Will Treat You Good Says:

      […] Let’s challenge indiscriminate incineration in Lewisham More on composting from Max […]

    2. Julian Says:

      I hope all the fruit/veg waste from Lewisham market is being composted, that must produce tons of waste each year.

    3. Max Says:

      Good point, I hope they do, that’s another question, something about commercial waste even down to the specific of Lewisham Market.

    4. ross Says:

      most likely it will be sent to rot in landfill and generate tons of methane (a bit like steve bullock)

    5. Felix Staratschek Says:

      Burning is never good, because it destroyes structures, which were made by the use of energy. And for production and new synthezis, much more energy is needed, than wit incineration can be gained.

      There are other methods, which can be used, like the kryo- recycling for plastics and e- waste and e better biological- mechanical treatment for all biological products.

      Backgrounds and more information about waste- economy and its powerful lobbyist for incineration:

    6. Felix Staratschek Says:

      There is a petition for more recycling and against incineration:
      About this page:

    7. The Kitchen Waste budget « . Says:

      […] incinerator, the revenue it provides and the appropriateness of the material fed to it, read more here and […]

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