Burning issue of why 80% of Luton household waste is sent for incineration

'It would appear we've enormous issues to do with climate from this process'

By Euan Duncan
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 2:04 pm

Around 80 per cent of Luton’s household waste is sent for incineration, a meeting heard.

The black bag contents can be sent to energy for waste (EfW) facilities and used to generate power into the UK grid, the borough council's waste disposal task and finish group was told.

Around 49,000 tonnes of Luton’s residual waste is sent to EfW facilities under the current waste management contract, according to a report to the group on February 7.

Luton Town Hall

Strategy and sustainability service manager Shaun Askins said: "The contract increased and included the amount of waste we wanted diverted from landfill from an arbitrary amount to 49,000 tonnes of the black bag household waste.

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn described himself as "grateful incineration isn't (done) here in Luton", saying: "It would appear we've enormous issues to do with climate from this process.

"I don't know how else we do it. It doesn't look environmentally acceptable."

Mr Askins replied: "Energy from waste plants contribute about ten per cent of total capacity to the UK power grid.

"So they're a factor in the energy generation system for the country. Ideally we want to be generating less waste, so there's less to collect or dispose of.

"That's the sustainable long-term view when we get into that circle economy, where we're not generating waste or as little as possible, including recycling.

"The whole ethos of this circular economy is what we should be aiming for, moving all materials and products towards that so it can all be reused, reworked and repurposed."

Referring to incineration, Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "This is one of the most depressing documents I've read in a very long time.

"This is particularly as 80 per cent of the council's residual waste seems to be ending up there. That's a huge amount of waste.

"We should get one of the operators to explain why incineration is environmentally and economically better than many of the alternatives, such as landfill.

"I get the impression a significant amount of what we're saying will be trying to put pressure on higher powers than LBC to do something about the production of waste and packaging.

"A while back there was a campaign to leave packaging at supermarkets and they got fed up with it because they had to deal with it.

"Hopefully we'll come up with some real pointers for the council's new waste contract, which is what we're here for."

Mr Askins suggested a visit to one of the energy from waste plants owned by Buckinghamshire County Council and operated by FCC Environment.

Councillor Wynn called for a comparison with St Albans City and District Council, which is shifting the responsibility on to individual householders.

Councillor Franks noted that St Albans collects waste, but Hertfordshire County Council disposes of it, saying: "It might be useful to understand how that relationship works as well."

Mr Askins said that relationship might be changing, with more focus on them working together.

He labelled it a different demographic, with very few flats and a two-tier authority set-up.

There are 1,400 to 1,500 blocks of flats in Luton of various sizes, according to Mr Askins.

"It's an ever changing and quite challenging area to work in, as Luton is moving towards 25 per cent flats now," he explained.

"It's getting more like a London borough in that aspect with the number of flats across the town."