Monday, 15 September 2008

The Rubbish Minister's Rubbish Plant

A local columnist recently suggested that there should be a memorial to Jersey's first ministerial government. However, I think that they have already planned an apt memorial for themselves, in the shape of the La Collette incinerator: Excessively high-profile, exorbitantly expensive, spoiling the island and full of rubbish.
Worst of all, mass destructors are a very 19th Century solution to waste disposal. Through the 20th Century, numerous technologies have been developed for other industrial purposes, that, by the end of it, were being applied to waste disposal as a cleaner and ,moreover, cheaper solution than simple incineration. The other great change in that time is that the world has moved on from having hardly started on extracting most of its natural resources, to having seriously depleted many of them. This has meant that recycling materials has gone from being a waste of time, for all but the easiest and most precious, to being a major source in itself. If we are to continue to enjoy an industrialised consumer society through the 21st Century, then large scale recycling is essential.
For a fraction of the cost of the proposed incinerator, we could have a modular plant that sorted all the worthwhile recyclables out for selling on and cleanly disposed of most of the residue by pyrolysis or steam reforming to make syngas that would burn to power the plant and still generate a little saleable electricity besides. Or at least, if they are really afraid of modern technology, refuse derived fuel pellets that would flash burn in a fluidised bed incinerator.
However, they have set their heart on a cathedralesque incinerator as a monument to their might, and placed the goalposts to suit. Apparently, all the sensible alternatives to an incinerator are too newfangled to have proved themselves to the Transport & Technical Services Dept. One wonders how they manage with their other kit, with that mindset. Are they still running Trojan 2-stroke vans? No. Is their IT restricted to mainframes on Unix because Windows PCs are a bit of a novelty? I doubt it. So why have they run scared of a modular waste plant? Whatever the nominal excuse, the most plausible reasons are that it wouldn't look grand enough, and that the budget would be too small, and so diminish the Department's status. After all, the adoption of a world-leading sewage plant by their predecessors has been a long-term success, so it is not as if there is no precedent for buying state-of-the-art.

No comments: