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Welsh recycling plant to generate power and jobs

September 28, 2007 at 12:09 pm

EnviroParks Ltd, a company based in the Welsh valleys, is hoping to get planning permission for a recycling plant which will create renewable energy from waste. The plant could be operational by 2009 and would create 200 jobs as well as £50 million of investment in the former mining region.

The plant will occupy a 17-acre site at the Tower Colliery near Aberdare – a coal mine where extraction will soon cease. The new plant will perform two functions – breaking down waste and generating energy.

The waste treatment technology in question is known as plasma arc gasification. This works by using a high-energy electrical arc to superheat the waste material. As temperatures reach 13,000°C, the majority of waste is broken down into basic elemental gases and a solid by-product, or “ slag”.

The process generates electricity, while the slag can be used as an aggregate. Although organic waste could be gasified in the same way as mainstream waste, it is proposed that a separate, anaerobic digestion plant be built on the site. This is to help ensure Wales meets its national target for recycling compostable waste, which is set at 25%. The anaerobic digestion plant would produce biofuels, providing a further source of revenue for the company.

A major advantage of both plasma arc technology and anaerobic digestion is the diversion of waste from landfill. The plasma method also creates none of the hazardous emissions associated with incineration. Until recently, plasma arc facilities have only been built for small-scale or niche waste markets. The Welsh plant will be the first in the UK to handle mainstream waste and will process up to 250,000 tonnes a year. The material will be a mixture of “black bag waste,” compost from domestic gardens and commercial food waste.

David Williams of Enviroparks Ltd believes the plant would “deliver 100% diversion from landfill, making the park a key strategic recycling location for southeast Wales and the Heads of the Valleys region.”

EnviroParks Ltd has promised extensive public consultation (to begin this week) and an environmental impact assessment. The scheme has the backing of the Welsh Asssembly Government, but Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is the body which will ultimately have the power to give the go-ahead or not. If the project is a success, more large-scale plasmas facilities could be built in the UK to meet the need for green waste disposal and energy generation.

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