Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Does Ken Livingstone want gridlock in London?

Well, possibly according to this press release from Hammersmith and Fulham Council, and possibly not according to this one from The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone's office.

At the heart of the issue is the fact that London is running out of landfill sites, and will have them filled by around 2010. That is 3 years away at most.

It is clear from the press release from Ken Livingstone that he is very much against incineration. His press release bangs on and on about fantastic green ways of dealing with rubbish, including turning it into bio gas, recovering heat from it (How? cooling when it is composting? surely not? In Northern Europe you generally have to heat this sort of stuff to get the right temperatures to produce bio gas and decent compost).

All well and good. Those nasty Tories at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, together with The Western Riverside Waste Authority should be ashamed of themselves!

The problem with all of this is that at it's very heart this looks like a power grab by Red Ken to get more power for his office. He thinks London needs an overarching waste authority, reporting to him of course. He would like a bill going through parliament now amended to give him that power, the Greater London Authority Bill. So at least we know his motivation.

Ken is right that councils are not using the "latest" emerging technologies to deal with waste, but that is because they have not yet been run on a sufficiently large scale and need development. If there were a budget for developing renewable energy from waste on a large scale that would be good.

So what does London do when it runs out of landfill? Well if the incinerator at Bexely isn't built it will have to be shipped out in 100,000 trucks causing yet more traffic in London.

In any case the incinerator planned is one which will generate electricity for a medium sized town so is in many ways a green way of dealing with waste.

That is the problem. Even if the GLA bill were modified it is very doubtful that Red Ken could have some alternative means of waste disposal available in the time. If he has some proposal up his sleeve he should say so.

Please note, the Hammersmith and Fulham Council is not yet on the web, I will add a link as soon as I can.


Timothy said...

Well, one good reason for a London-wide waste authority is that it would have the size of budget to be able to achieve the economies of scale on new technologies.

I would imagine that Ken could make equally convincing arguments about a lot of things the borough councils currently do individually, though.

On incineration: It turns out to be fiendishly complex to work out whether it is better to incinerate or to recycle from a resource usage point of view. In the end it depends on the quality of the implementation.

Incineration would be very bad if the wrong sort of waste ended up being incinerated [eg batteries, mercury containing "toys", some plastics], but that comes down to how much effort and money you put into screening the waste.

Likewise, recycling is a bit pointless if your tetrapaks have to be carted all the way to Fife [the only facility that can recycle them at present], emitting vast amounts of carbon on the way.

One expects that residents will soon face being charged on the basis of the weight of their rubbish. Yet another regressive tax, then.

However, now would be a good time to deploy some old-fashioned red tape to force shops, etc to reduce the amount of superfluous packaging that they use, which is surely one of the main causes of the problem.

Benedict White said...

Timothy, as you rightly point out you can make that argument for all of London's services being run centrally.

In fact final waste disposal for Hamersmith and Fulham is shared amongst 4 boroughs so is already on a larger scale. That model does allow for a certain amount of learning from competition as well as giving economiews of scale.

On the incineration issue, as you rightly point out, it is all down to how, what where and what do you do with the heat? In thsi case generate electricity.

Timothy said...

Where you lead ,the Guardian follows...,,1993871,00.html

One interesting point in the article is the manner in which the government, though acknowledging what needs to be done, is wholly incapable of taking any action that might address the issue.

The parallels with inaction over Global Warming are, sadly, all too clear.

Benedict White said...

Timothy, many thanks for the comment, and the link.

I will consider what response to write carefuly.