Campaigners against incinerator in England shocked to discover it is burning Swansea’s waste
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Much of Swansea’s black bag waste now ends up more than 200 miles away in Bedfordshire, which hasn’t gone down well with campaigners in the English county.
Swansea Council stopped burying black bag waste at the city’s Tir John landfill site earlier this year – to the relief of people living in nearby Port Tennant – and agreed contracts with two waste contractors to handle it.
A lot of this non-recyclable waste is now taken by one of the contractors, Geminor UK, to be incinerated at a new “energy-from-waste” facility near the village of Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire.
Stewart Long, secretary of Marston Moreteyne Action Group, said he accepted there was a need for some black bag waste to be burned at energy-from-waste plants – although he felt this option was used too quickly – but was shocked that some of it was coming 220 miles from Swansea.
“We found out roughly four weeks ago while on a site visit at the incinerator here as part of a liaison panel,” said Mr Long. “To find out one of the contracts was Swansea was quite unbelievable.”
Mr Long said his local council was using the new plant, but wondered why Swansea Council didn’t ensure its waste was burned somewhere closer to home.
“There is this whole disconnect – the amount of mileage, the diesel used,” he said. “Our push is for Swansea Council to really look at their contract. And we hope that people in Swansea take a bit more interest.”
Marston Moreteyne Action Group has written to the council and the Welsh Government outlining its concerns.
The letter to the council’s interim chief executive, Martin Nicholls, asked why it was acceptable to transport waste from Swansea “to our community”.
Swansea council had been keen to cease landfilling operations and had been under pressure to do so for years by campaigners. Landfill sites generate methane, which is considerably more harmful to the environment than carbon emissions, and are expensive to run.
Tir John stopped accepting black bag waste in February, but it will remain open for capping and restoration work. Around two million tonnes of rubbish is buried there.
Between October 2020 and September 2021 the council landfilled just over 38,000 tonnes of black bag waste, recycled and composted 73,600 tonnes, and sent 3,330 tonnes to energy-from-waste plants.
Geminor UK’s website said it transported non-recyclable waste from Swansea to an energy-from-waste facility called Rookery South, which is in Bedfordshire. It said the three-year contract had extensions for a further four years, and would result in the annual processing of 33,000 tonnes of waste.
Swansea Council said its new arrangements were in line with the Welsh Government’s waste and recycling strategy and was the method used by the majority of councils.
A council spokesman said: “In order to switch to this method, a tendering process was completed to employ waste contractors that would manage our waste once collected from the kerb. Costs along with available capacity within energy from waste plants, ultimately determines the end destination for the waste they collect from Swansea.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service has contacted Geminor UK for comment.
The other company used by the council, Derwen Recycling, removes recyclable items from black bags at its base in Neath Abbey and sends the remaining material to energy from waste facilities in Cardiff and Sweden.
There are six energy-from-waste plants operating in Wales, although only two can accept black bag waste. There is a moratorium in place on further large-scale energy from waste plants.
The Welsh Government said landfilling was the worst option to deal with waste, in terms of environmental impacts. Energy-from-waste, it said, was above landfill in this regard but below recycling.
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