back to article No welcome in the valleys for Welsh incinerator

Local residents are determined to battle a plan to build a giant £400m "Energy-from-Waste" facility in Merthyr, capable of incinerating all of Wales's non-recyclable waste. The proposed plant will, operator Covanta said, represent Wales's "biggest inward investment for years", creating 500 construction jobs and 100 permanent …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    of course they don't like it...

    They would rather that it was located in England and the revenue used to subsidise welsh interests.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    If she's that concerned about her children she should make sure they exist entirely on renewable resources and never buy them anything which is unsustainable or creates waste that can't be recycled. Will she? Will she hell.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bloody NIMBYs

    I don't see how anyone can view this as a bad thing. Generating energy from waste, it's what we need to do more of!

    Anonymous because I'm tangentially involved in this project at a council level...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Surely it'll actually improve the area..?

  5. Edward Miles

    And the cry went up...

    "Not in my backyard! Stick it in someone else's!"

    Idiots. Council should refuse to collect there rubbish, see how quickly they change their minds.

  6. Steve Foster

    What is it with folks?

    Sheesh, nimbyism is getting way out of hand.

    No-one wants *anything* built anywhere near them these days, even though an incinerator has to be more environmentally friendly than landfill.

    Personally, I'd be very happy with a small incinerator near me, as long as:

    a) it's burning reasonably local waste (ie we aren't transporting waste significant distances to bring it to the incinerator), and

    b) the "smoke stacks" are properly designed and built to ensure clean exhaust.

    If it happened to do CHP too for the area, that'd be even better.

    What we do need to be careful of is not building too many incinerator plants - while there's always going to be some waste to burn, hopefully we're going to find ways to reduce the overall volume, which would limit the "raw material" available to supply such plants.

  7. Tetsugaku-San

    Do they have any reaons to worry about their health?

    Or is it just brainless NIMBYism?

  8. greg


    To be fair, they do need to get rid of some shit in Merthyr. Went there once on call and thought I was going to get killed.

  9. Mike Richards Silver badge


    Most people know Denmark has gone a long way to get power from the wind, but 400,000 Danish households get their power and heat from waste-to-power plants just like this.

    And these campaigners are against the power station AND a coal mine? Well it's not like the Valleys need jobs is it?

  10. MnM

    Why is this in the entertainment section?

    'The Welshman who campaigned for a coal mine and got an incinerator'. With Huw Grant. A charming human story of a forgotten industial backwater, where the miserable people wholeheartedly fail to rise above their challenging economic and social environment. Lots of moaning, some gritty sex.

  11. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Down

    Is this news?

    NIMBYs strike again, making absolutely no solid claims against it except "it'll smell and be ugly". While probably declaring that we need a better non-fossil-fuel energy source and that more jobs are needed in Wales.

    Also, it looks like this plant could run on waste dug up from old landfills- meaning that we've got a significant amount of energy locked away under the UK!

  12. Bassey
    Thumb Up

    Not a problem

    We have an "Energy from waste" plant over here. No one is bothered about it. It looks okay and, as far as I can tell, has no impact on the immediate surroundings. Still, I think they should take her up on her kind offer to fight until she dies. If all her Nimby-kind were prepared to be equally generous the world would be a much better place and the cost of such projects significantly lower.

  13. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Let her be...

    She looks like the type of people who is addicted to campaigning. Tell her that Farther Christmas is moving his residence to Merthyr and she will campaign against that too...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @MnM - gritty sex?

    What, like on a beach?

    Maybe that's why we don't see the Eee PC girl around here any more.

  15. censored

    Dioxins, dioxins...

    No doubt the centre of the scares and misinformation will be "the most toxic substances known", Dioxins.

    I went to a very interesting talk on poisons last week, where we were shown a photo of the president of Ukraine, who suffered deliberate poisoning by dioxin - the worst case ever known.

    Other than looking about 20 years old than he should, he survived and is now healthy. And that's with a dose thousands of times greater than anything that could conceivably come out of an incinerator. The "risks", therefore, are non-existent when compared with the very real methane, heavy metal and petro-chemical leaks from landfill.

    And yet, the NIMBY scare campaign will centre on these so-called utterly deadly substances that might come out in infinitesimally small amounts.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me...

    This reminds me of a woman in our local area (Croydon) who fought tooth and nail against the building of the tram system about 10 years ago.

    According to this woman (I'll not mention her name to avoid her embarrassment) the trams were going to be horrendously noisy and keep everyone in the area awake all night.

    At the same time, she also believed that they would be a killer in our midst, mowing down people left right and centre as they swept silently through crowds of unsuspecting pedestrians.

    The apparent contradiction was lost on her. Of course, these days the only debates surrounding the tram system are whether or not the council can afford to buy some more trams to ease overcrowding, and whether or not the Mayor will stump up the cash to fund the various extensions being clamoured for.

  17. Peter Kay

    Can't really blame them

    Especially after all the supposed underhand tactics to get the open cast mine approved.

    Personally I think 'it'll smell and be ugly' is a perfectly valid criticism - you're in the hills with decent air you'd rather not be ruined.

    At least in this situation there are other plants (or rather the community around them) that can be used as a benchmark for how offensive it is - I wouldn't trust the waste processing firm's PR as far as I could throw them, though. The websites always mention that it's low impact, when the reality is often increased traffic, noise, pollution etc. A plant that big is going to be handling waste all over the country..

    I suspect the residents are fucked, however - they got overruled at Westminster last time with insufficient local input about the open cast mine, and it'll happen again.

    Speaking of which, I'm dearly hoping that the application for a local waste processing plant is turned down, especially considering the only other example of it in the country burnt down and the initial application and appeal were turned down by my local council. Which part of 'fuck off and don't come back' don't these people understand?

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Just tell them that its burning ...

    ... English holiday homes - seem to think that sort of incineration used to go down well in Wales.

  19. A J Stiles

    Simple solution

    The ones who object to the plant should have their electricity cut off and their non-recyclables left uncollected. And see how they like it!

    It's not a smelly garden bonfire, it's a high-tech power plant. It is supposed to deal exclusively with stuff that doesn't get soft when heated (i.e., what goes in your black bin, not your blue or green one). Decaying organic matter can produce methane, which is 20 times more damaging than the CO2 that would have been produced by burning it. And every kilo of CO2 it emits -- most of which will be from non-fossil-fuel sources, since most oil-based plastics should already have been segregated out -- means one kilo less of CO2 being emitted by a fossil-fuel plant somewhere else.

  20. mittfh

    No probs in Cov...

    Coventry's got a W2E plant, which handles most of the non-recyclable waste from Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull. As far as I know there aren't major protests about it, and they do maintain tight controls over emissions, as well as separating out ash, ferrous metal and particulates:

    However, I suppose as with any waste processing facility, new-build W2E plants have a high NIMBY factor (probably from the mistaken belief they'll pump out loads of pollutants), although (at least with fairly modern plants like Coventry) locals accept existing facilities without question - as long as there isn't any anecdotal evidence of increased health problems in the local community!

  21. Anonymous Coward


    What's the best thing to come out of Coventry? - The M69.

    Seriously though - they've had an incinerator since the '60s, and generate power from it, and reduce the level of landfill.

    It's not that energy efficient, managing about 20% I think, but with the reduction in the amount of landfill, and effectively fuel free for the collecting, it's not a bad municipal scheme.

    Empiricists of the world rejoice though - does the incinerator make Coventry the shit hole that it is? Or is it that we only want to put incinerators in shit holes like Coventry and Wales?

    Flame? What else!

  22. Richard Kay

    A modest proposal (with apologies to J. Swift)

    Obviously the poorest place in Wales has to take the rubbish from all the richer places in Wales. This stands to reason. Poorer people live shorter and more miserable lives so killing and maiming a few from the dioxins resulting from rich people's right to go shopping without concern for all the disposable packaging and non-recyclable consumer waste results in much less harm than if richer people had to suffer the toxic and environmental effects of their own waste.

    It obviously wouldn't do for well-off people to have to deal with the consequences of their own rubbish or to have to think twice about the consequences of their shopping habits. The whole economy would grind to a halt if that happened. Having poor people somewhere else doesn't help richer people live better lives unless the poor can be made to do literally anything in order to get a few more pennies coming into their community from elsewhere. Makes me glad to be an economist - I certainly couldn't go along with this if I were to let any sense of ethics get in the way.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They dont want it because they will then have to try and get a job or lose their benefit!

  24. Anonymous Coward


    Definite, definite improvement

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Peter Kay

    "Personally I think 'it'll smell and be ugly' is a perfectly valid criticism - you're in the hills with decent air you'd rather not be ruined."

    Ummm, either you've not been to Merthyr or you're being ironic.

  26. David Pollard

    Pyrolysis seems much better

    Given the difficulty of extracting dioxins and other nasties from combustion products, it's hardly surprising that people don't want incinerators. Though presently more expensive and less well-developed, pyrolysis looks to be a better solution.

    The great advantage when reforming domestic refuse, and waste wood, in this way is that the products are charcoal, syngas and a range of chemical feedstocks. The charcoal is a soil improver and enables reduced use of fertilizers. The gas can be stored and used to generate electricity when the wind turbines run out of wind. The yield is thus more valuable than that from simply burning the waste and carbon is captured directly in an economically useful form.

    Unfortunately a quick fix is needed to meet EU regulations on waste as well as to find an alternative now that many convenient holes in the ground have been filled. Whatever strengths the planners may have, foresight and long-term strategy do not appear to be among them.

  27. Steve Swann

    And Cardiff too!

    I live in Cardiff, not very far away from the old steel works where quite a few people were made redundant when the old plant closed down. The plant has now been purchased by a company intending to establish a W2E plant and, despite consultation, explanation and clarity of purpose, it's being opposed by the majority of the local community.

    On examining their complaints and comparing to the information provided by the company and the independant research into W2E environmental impact (let alone the benefits we gain from cheaper energy and cleaner waste disposal), I could only come to the conclusion that my neighbours were downright stupid - opposing the plans for no. good. reason.

    Do they not want their jobs back? do they not want cheaper power? do they not want a cleaner nation?

    No - what they want is things to stay (or go back) to the way they were. Short-sighted is an under-statement!

    It's often said that in order to 'save the planet' we have to undergo radical and drastic social change; if the worst we have to accept is the building of W2E plants then I say we've done bloody well!

    Go Green!

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Splitting infinitives

    "dying death" ... as opposed to what other kind exactly?

    I'll boldly go get my coat.

  29. A J Stiles

    @ David Pollard

    Read a bit of chemistry sometime, will you? Combustion consists of two chemical reactions, pyrolysis (splitting up the fuel into simpler substances, which is endothermic -- requires energy) and oxidation (combination of said simpler substances with oxygen, which is very exothermic -- liberates a lot of energy). The overall energy change is the same, whether the two reactions take place at the same time or one after the other.

  30. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    The problem is the Money

    W2E works and is clean, as long as the system is well-maintained, and the very high temperatures required to break down pollutants like Dioxin are always maintained. However, that all costs money. So, despite all the assurances, at some point we all know the furnaces will be run at too low a temperature for a while, or the scrubbers in the smokestacks will get left too long, or some other skimping will be done, and the locals will get poisoned. The company might even be fined (woo) but the locals will still suffer the long-term effects of the insufficiently incinerated nasties.

    That's how it always works, doesn' t it?

  31. A J Stiles

    @ Hayden Clark

    The solution is simple, ensure that the operating company are paid only for the electricity they generate and not according to the rubbish they burn (after all, power stations using all other fuels have to pay money for them on the open market .....)

    The laws of physics state that the better the equipment is performing, the more electricity it will generate. Dioxins going up the flue means incomplete combustion means reduced output.

  32. chris
    IT Angle

    Hang on, this isn't right

    I'm confused, this seems to have slipped through without the obligatory dab of "global warming is a scam" crap that defines Register environment stories.

    What's the angle then? Welsh people / greens are silly luddites compared with wise metropolitan IT types? The magic market will find a way to deal with all environmental problems?

  33. Frank

    Why not.....?

    Why not built these and other 'controversial' projects just off a main road between two towns close to a high voltage grid line?

    That way, you get a good transport link for building the place and the people who will work there can be easily travel there by car or bus. The electricity generated can be easily linked into the grid and the only person who might complain would be some local farmers but they can be easily compensated as a one off measure.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    I look out the window at work and see....

    Yup I'm still alive, only can smell the pollution from the passing traffic.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Typical of the area

    Having grown up there, I can confirm that anything that involves progress or creation of jobs will be faced by moany negative locals. It's no surprise that the unemployment rate is skyrocketing and all tech startups have failed miserably. There's nothing that the south/mid Welsh like more than despondant degeneration.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our very own local incinerator

    Our local incinerator has been working continuously 24/7 here for some 36 yrs,

    It doesnt produce electricity unfortunately, but is very efficient.

    It will take anything that has a thermal value ant turn it into heat, running at anything between 700 and 1000Deg C centigrade.

    It doesnt need any electricity for draught making, but uses a highly insulated ceramic flue design, coupled with a refractory lined furnace area.

    This heat is used for infra red radiant space heating as well as a local thermal water distribution service.

    Fully automatic operation with manual overide as needed.

    Its situated in the center of our residential area and the locals rely on it .

    designed by Allied Ironfounders some 50 yrs ago.

    There are 2 additional similar plants here in standby mode shoud they be needed.

    Our organisation installed a similar plant in Wales nr Abergavenny some 2 yrs ago much to the benefit of the local folk. With no complaints.

    Its called a mk.1 Rayburn.

  37. David Pollard

    @ A J Stiles - supply and peak demand

    Sorry if you were confused by my comment. My chemistry is good enough to have noted that pyrolysis is an endothermic process, and I am reasonably schooled in the fallacy of the free lunch. In case anyone else misunderstood, and ignoring the chemical feedstocks that it produces for brevity...

    The products from pyrolysis of refuse appear to be more valuable than the energy that can be obtained by simply burning it continuously to generate electricity.

    Assuming that carbon sequestration is appropriate action, pyrolysis can do this effectively and probably at lower cost than other methods that have been proposed but not yet implemented. In addition to fixing carbon, the charcoal that is produced can also provide long-term energy and financial savings by making soil more fertile and reducing waste of fertilizer. Should other methods of sequestration or soil conditioning turn out to be better, or should carbon controls be shown to be unnecessary, the charcoal would provide a convenient and easily stored fuel. Either would be a more valuable way to use of this portion of the energy in the refuse than as heat to make electricity all year round.

    Although some of the syngas that is made is likely to be used to drive the pyrolysis (unless, e.g., off-peak electricity is cheaper or there is a handy source of waste heat from another industrial process) the remainder can be stored without great expense and burned in gas turbines to match peak electricity demand or used for heating. This flexibility greatly increases its value in comparison with energy from continuous (near) renewable sources, such as 'round the coast' tidal or nuclear fission which can't be swiftly modulated and with which continuous burning of the refuse would have to compete; or intermittent sources such as wind or solar voltaic which often aren't available when needed and from which energy presently has an artificially inflated value.

    Unlike some of the current crop of green technologies, such as domestic wind turbines, pyrolysis seems to have few disadvantages and a positive balance sheet. Unusually in the green field, it comes with double benefits. It sequesters carbon and makes soil more fertile. If provides not just a source of renewable energy but energy that can be stored inexpensively and is available when needed.

    Although it might generate no more energy from the refuse than direct burning, the value of the energy available through pyrolysis could be considerably greater. It looks to be a promising technology and it seems a shame that it's apparently being ignored in the rush to comply with diktats from the bureaucrats..

  38. Galway Tent

    Covanta REPEATEDLY fined for releasing dioxins, toxic emissions

    October 9, 2006

    In New Jersey, the Covanta company has been REPEATEDLY fined for releasing excessive amounts of dioxin and other toxic emissions from its Essex County plant.

    In the past year, New Jersey regulators have ordered Covanta to pay for violations at ALL three of its waste-to-energy plants in the state.

    The Rutgers Environmental Law Center at Rutgers University in New Jersey has filed a notice of its intent to sue Covanta over repeated Clean Air Act violations at the Essex plant, the state's largest garbage incinerator.

  39. Galway Tent

    European Union policy could cost you 2 years of life.

    European Respiratory Society: European Union policy could cost you 2 years of life.

    The European Respiratory Society has published its concern about the mismatch between European Union policy and the best scientific evidence.

    They state that a reduction in the yearly average PM2.5 particulates to 15μg per cubic metre(c) would result in life expectancy gains, at age 30, of between 1 month and 2 years.

    They point out that the benefits of implementing stringent air pollution legislation would outweigh the costs. These recommendations are sensible and based on sound science.

    A programme of building incinerators would unfortunately achieve the opposite: they would increase particulate pollution, reduce life expectancy and would be at odds with the best science.

    Statements by leading researchers include the following:

    “the magnitude of the association between fine particles and mortality suggests that controlling fine particles would result in saving thousands of early deaths each year” (Schwartz)


    “there is consistent evidence that fine particulates are associated with increased all cause, cardiac and respiratory mortality. These findings strengthen the case for controlling the levels of respiratory particulates in outdoor air”


    c) The US National Ambient Air Quality Standard for PM 2.5 particulates was introduced into the USA in 1997 with a mean annual limit of 15μg per cubic metre. This had measurable health benefits.

    An annual mean limit for PM 2.5 particulates is to be introduced into Scotland in 2010 and this will be 12μg per cubic metre. An annual mean target for PM 2.5 particulates is to be introduced into the UK in 2020 and this will be 25μg per cubic metre. Many will wonder why the difference is so vast when the science is the same

  40. Galway Tent

    WHO Incineration Health Effects Assessment by the WHO

    Incineration Health Effects Assessment by the WHO and Other Authorities

    SCIENCE: Incineration Health Effects Assessment by the WHO and Other Authorities

    Assessment by the WHO and Other Authorities

    Based on World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines the British Society for Ecological Medicine has estimated that a 1μg per cubic metre increase in PM2.5 particulates(a) would lead to a reduced life expectancy of 40 days per person over 15 years(b).

    Although this figure appears small they note that the public health implications are large and the effect on a typical population of 250,000 surrounding an incinerator would be a loss of 27,500 man-years of life over a 15 year time period.

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