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Greens politicians fear a proposed Inverness Energy from Waste plant that could cost up to £190 million may not be a financially or environmentally viable solution to landfill

By Scott Maclennan

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An artist's impression of how the Energy from Waste may look.
An artist's impression of how the Energy from Waste may look.

FEARS are being voiced that a green energy hub, which could cost up to £190 million, may not be as financially viable as expected.

Scottish Greens councillor Pippa Hadley is concerned that, rather than help Highland Council get rid of waste, a new Energy from Waste (EfW) plant could become an out-of-date millstone around its neck.

The party is calling for the public to be “properly consulted” over the plans after councillors agreed to spend £2.8 million on a scoping exercise for the creation of the plant in the Longman Industrial Estate.

The project is designed to help cut costs spent on sending waste to landfill – around £11 million to dispose of 80,000 tonnes of rubbish each year.

The Greens, however, believe taxpayers will face a triple payment for waste if the scheme goes ahead: Initial purchase, collection via council tax and the public money spent on its realisation.

An EfW plant takes waste that is difficult or impractical to recycle and burns it to create heat or electricity. It could cost anything from £90 million to £190 million to create.

Councillors agreed plans for an expert review of options last month.

But Cllr Hadley believes local solutions would be more practical, pushing for the development of a “circular economy” of waste that reuses, repairs, refurbishes and recycles existing materials and products.

“Although I recognise the incinerator proposal has been considered for a large number of years, I am concerned it is not the best solution for our landfill issue,” she said.

“Times and attitudes in the public perception towards recycling have changed over the last decade, and so have the opportunities for recycling our waste and the appetite for doing so. I fear that the incinerator will quickly prove that it no longer has the same financial viability as when it was first envisioned.

“With local solutions to recycling appearing faster and becoming wider spread across the Highlands, more and more of us are utilising them and our household waste output reflects this.

“I hope that we could begin to investigate partnership working in our recycling endeavours, and in doing so keep abreast of the latest developments in waste uplift and, in turn, develop a more realistic awareness of the current recycling, reuse and upcycle culture and desire for environmentally-friendly uplift from our communities.

“We must move towards the requirement of a circular economy, and the incinerator is ultimately a step away from that aspiration, and may already be behind the trend.”

She is also worried HGVs transporting waste to the site could add to emissions rather than reduce the council’s carbon footprint.

Highland and Islands Greens MSP Ariane Burgess said that EfW was close to the bottom of the list as a solution for tackling waste in the co-operation agreement between the Greens and the Scottish Government at Holyrood.

“New incinerators simply change the end product from landfill waste to CO2 and toxic ash,” she said.

“That’s not good for the planet nor those who live and work near incinerators.”

Despite the Greens’ concerns, however, the experience of Shetland Islands Council suggests an energy recovery plant could be effective.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency recently reported that the local authority enjoys the highest rate in Scotland for diverting waste from landfill and the second lowest carbon impact from waste because of its Lerwick-based plant.

A Zero Waste Scotland report published last year also highlighted how sending one tonne of residual municipal waste to EfW in Scotland in 2018 emitted 15 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than were produced by sending the waste to landfill.

Related Story – Highland Council agrees a £2.8 million for an expert team to scope an energy from waste plant on the Longman that could save millions on landfill taxes

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