By Ella Lloyd
Since declaring a climate emergency in April 2019, the Welsh Government has introduced a five-year blueprint to tackle this issue, along with proposing restrictions on single-use plastic (to be implemented next year) and a clean air plan.
However, what has not made headlines is the number of commercial waste incinerators being built in South Wales. Plans for a new incinerator to be built in the St Mellons area of Cardiff are being contested by a group of residents who say they were not consulted on the issue, and have concerns regarding the health and environmental impact of this form of waste disposal.
The proposal comes shortly after the building of the Viridor Incinerator in the neighbouring constituency in Splott and the Aviva Incinerator in Barry. An online petition opposing the newly proposed incinerator has gained over 2,000 signatures, and a protest was staged outside the Senedd last November.
The ‘CF3 Incinerator’, as it has been dubbed, will run for 24 hours a day and burn 200,000 tonnes of commercial waste each year. Residents have expressed concerns about harmful emissions and particulates such as PM2.5 which may have health impacts.
St Mellons resident Brenda Griffiths expressed worries about this and “asks world leaders/ environmentalists/ medics – What are the long-term effects of this?”.
Môr Hafren Bio Power, a branch of CoGen, who is proposing the incinerator argue that the emissions will be majority steam and CO2 and therefore will not be harmful to humans, however the levels of CO2 produced create concerns for climate change.
The average UK incinerator creates 230,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and emits more CO2 per megawatt-hour than all fossil fuels. Whether this method of waste disposal or landfill is more environmentally friendly is disputed, with some studies suggesting incineration releases 1.6 more tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere than landfill.
Air quality in Cardiff is reportedly the 4th worst in the UK, according to a study by the University of Birmingham. Also, according to the Welsh Index for Multiple Deprivation, the proposed site for the incinerator is in an area within the 10% ‘most deprived physical environments’ in Wales. The area is also in the 30-50% most deprived when it comes to health and 20-30% most deprived overall.
Because of this, there is a feeling amongst residents that they have become a dumping ground, reinforced by the lack of consultation from Môr Hafren. Consultations only began after residents became aware of the proposal and leafleted local homes and businesses. Resident Sean Parry commented: “We want a safe place for us and our children, and clean air for all.”
There are also concerns regarding secondary pollution from traffic, as waste from other areas of the UK will be brought in from 40 lorries visiting the site every day. This also causes concerns as the area already struggles with traffic.
“St Mellons is a nightmare to get out of in the mornings and evenings during the week. The A48 is at a standstill,” argued resident Claire Kennett.
As well as this, the proposed site is a natural habitat for Cuckoos, one of the UK’s most endangered birds. It is also within 5 km of the new £26m Eastern Community Campus, opened in 2018, which serves 1,200 Eastern High School Pupils, and 300 Cardiff and Vale College Students.
There have also been accusations of greenwashing the proposal as a safer, environmentally sustainable form of waste disposal. Further allegations have been made that CoGen’s own commercial and industrial waste will be burned at the plant.
We contacted Môr Hafren for a comment however they did not respond; their website states they are “committed to ensuring that the [Môr Hafren] facility will work to the highest emission standards.”
Concerned residents are being supported by local Assembly Member and Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething and local MP Stephen Doughty. Doughty brought the issue to the House of Commons on January 28 this year, where MPs from neighbouring constituencies and areas of England opposed incinerators planned all over the country.
Gair Rhydd also reached out to the Welsh Government for a response to the issues raised in the articles but they declined to comment. Additionally, we reached out to Stephen Doughty MP but are yet to receive a response.