This is an extract from Coventry Green New Deal’s Shadow Strategy.
Coventry Waste Incinerator Report
The waste to energy plant on Bar Road is operated by Coventry and Solihull Waste Disposal Company Limited (CSWDC). According to the most recent filing Coventry City Council owns 65% of the shares in CSWDC. Coventry has an unusual level of vertical integration in its waste system. It controls domestic waste collection, commercial collection company Tom White Waste and the Bar Road waste incinerator. It is also the largest shareholder of the new Material Recycling Facility off London Road, which only recycles waste collected as recycling. The collection of waste for recycling in Coventry is fourth lowest in England.
Coventry City Council collected 153,102 tonnes of waste in the year 2021/22. 28% of that was for composting or recycling. Coventry’s recycling rate is amongst the worst in England. The best Local Authority for recycling is Three Rivers Council in Hertfordshire but more similar cities like Wigan, Hull, Wakefield and Stockport recycle over 50% of their waste. There is no reason we cannot set a medium-term goal to be as good as Wigan.
Coventry also has one of the highest rates of rejection for waste collected for recycling in the country (17%). This is driven by recycling being collected unsegregated from people’s homes, leading to contamination and limiting the value of many of the collected materials as a feedstock. Greater domestic segregation of waste is required to increase recycling rates.
Emissions from the incinerator have increased significantly over the last 15 years to 249,779 tCO2e in 2021. This is responsible for 18% of Coventry’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Although this site generates electricity and heat to local public buildings (via Heatline) this is an extremely inefficient form of generation for both. The incinerator produces 1.90 kg CO2e per kWh of electricity, twice that of a coal power plant and ten times worse than the average for UK electricity. This would make it one of the dirtiest power generators in the UK. Operators would claim this is offset by the significant level of biogenic waste the site claims to burn (66%). It is unclear how this was calculated as it is much higher than the national average and there are growing concerns around the environmental credentials of burning biogenic waste.
Waste disposal in Coventry is dominated by incineration. The presence of the incinerator incentivises the burning of waste which could otherwise be recycled, and disincentivises improvements in the collection of waste. It is clear that the primary function of the incinerator is to burn waste and not to generate energy.
The amount of waste going to landfill is low, although this is somewhat flattered by the fact 17% of the waste sent for incineration is not able to be burned, with a further 4% collected as pollution control residues. Whilst some metal recovery is carried out on these remnants, the majority is disposed of.
The incinerator is a major source of air pollution in the city. The amount of pollution can be estimated from the measured levels reported by CSWDC. Although these emissions were within the limits of the permits set by the regulator, there are significant harms associated with these pollutants.
It is extremely difficult to attribute any one death or illness to the pollution from the incinerator, it’s location so close to the city centre will have had a detrimental impact on the health of the people of Coventry when compared to a location where fewer people are likely to exposed to such pollution.
|Respiratory illness, acid rain
|Respiratory illness, cardiopulmonry disease, cancer
|Respiratory illness, cardiopulmonary diseases, acid rain
|Respiratory illness, cardiopulmonry disease, eye irritant, acid rain, reacts to form particulates
|Respiratory irritant, reacts to form NOx
|Respiratory illness, cardiopulmonry disease, acutely corrosive, acid rain, can react to form other harmful substances
|Cancer, organ damage, inhibited child development, neurodegenerative diseases
|Other organic pollutants
|Cancer, cardiovascular illness, neurological effects, eye irritant
Data based on 2021/22 Local Authority Collected Waste Statistics – Local Authority data, 2020 Emissions by Local Authority (BEIS), Companies House, Environment, CSWDC Ltd Annual Performance Report 2022 and CSWDC Environment, Health and Safety Review for the year to 31st December 2021. Air pollution estimates are based on measured data extrapolated across the period. Harms are from government sources.