Surrey County Council will build two energy from waste (EfW) incinerators in order to halve the amount of waste it landfills each year, it was confirmed this week.
Under the 20 year Surrey Waste Plan set to be approved next week, two EfW plants would treat nearly 270,000 tonnes of household waste each year, supplying electricity to 17,000 homes. The council currently landfills 400,000 tonnes of waste per year.
Unlike many other local authorities, Surrey found EfW preferable to the increasingly popular Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) as a waste solution.
"A combination of market uncertainty, high costs and the unproven nature of MBT made it an unacceptable risk for Surrey's taxpayers," says the waste plan.
In MBT plants, the methane gas generated by waste is extracted and moisture removed before the residual waste is compressed into a recovered fuel. This fuel can then be sold on for incineration by industrial facilities such as cement kilns.
The county council will pursue EfW plants despite local opposition which the council claims has been stoked up by pictures in the local press "erroneously" showing old style incinerators.
"EfW suffers a poor public perception because of outdated views of old-style incinerators, which were mass burning machines that had little in the way of emissions controls," said a Surrey County Council spokesman.
"EfWs have stringent controls for gas emissions and are subject to high standards of regulation by the Environment Agency."
The popularity of modern EfW plants is likely to increase if the European Parliament approves revisions to the European Waste Framework Directive that will allow the technology be reclassified from a form of waste disposal to a form of energy recovery.