Fact or fiction? Campaigners call out Veolia ‘green-washing’

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The outline of the proposed incinerator and comparison to the current Material Recovery Facility

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CAMPAIGNERS have called on Veolia to stop “misrepresenting the green credentials” of the enormous incinerator it is proposing to build in the rural Wey Valley near Alton.

The controversial application has attracted more than 5,000 strong objections from local residents and businesses, backed by those of MPs Damian Hinds and Jeremy Hunt, three district or borough councils, two town councils and 19 parish councils.

Over recent weeks, however, the No Wey Incinerator action group claims Veolia has caused “significant local anger” by issuing misleading statements about the environmental impact of its proposed incinerator.

Ben Stanberry, spokesman for the action group, said: “Greenwashing happens when big companies like Veolia mislead people about the affect incinerators have on the environment or exaggerate their benefits.

“We think it is high time Veolia stopped making demonstrably false claims and started being honest about their proposed incinerator.

“We have compiled our own ‘top ten’ list of Veolia’s most frequently-used and blatant greenwash statements which we hope will help residents and the councillors who will assess the application to judge the truth for themselves.

“Our community is also extremely concerned about the impact the proposed incinerator would have on our landscape.

“We know it will be almost three times higher than the existing facility and bigger than Winchester Cathedral.

“Because this is hard to visualise we have created a scaled outline of the incinerator and superimposed it on the existing recycling centre so that everyone can see how truly enormous it will be (pictured above).

“This shows very clearly how completely incompatible the proposed incinerator is with its setting in what CPRE Hampshire has designated as ‘valued landscape’ which affords it protection under national planning policy.

“The No Wey Incinerator action group have formally called on Hampshire County Council to delay their determination of Veolia’s planning application until the secretary of state has had an opportunity to consider and respond to our request to take it over.

“Hampshire County Council are yet to respond, but meanwhile we shall continue to closely monitor the accuracy of Veolia’s public statements and call out any further attempts to greenwash a proposal that is opposed by everyone in our community.”

A Veolia spokesman said: “Our proposed energy recovery facility near Alton tackles Hampshire’s urgent unmet need for waste treatment capacity as set out in its local Development Plan. It will increase grid resilience and supports the green recovery.

“The facility will use residual waste, that cannot be recycled, to generate enough electricity to power over 75,000 Hampshire homes. It will create over 300 construction jobs and forty permanent new roles. The facility will result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to landfill. It will be designed to be carbon-capture ready, is able to power a local heat network, and meets all relevant fire safety regulations.”

No Wey’s ’top ten’ cases of Veolia green-washing:

* 1 Fiction: ““Designed to be carbon capture ready”

Fact: Carbon capture is not included in any part of Veolia’s planning application. The proposed site is too small for the carbon capture and storage required to meet legally binding UK net-zero targets.

* 2 Fiction: “Will power a local heat network”

Fact: There is no existing heat network and in its planning application Veolia admits that it won’t be economically viable to build one.

* 3 Fiction: “Designed to meet Hampshire’s needs”

Fact: Hampshire already has three incinerators. This development isn’t for Hampshire, it is for purely commercial purposes and the application acknowledges that waste will be transported to the site from far afield.

* 4 Fiction: “The proposal tackles Hampshire’s urgent unmet need for waste treatment capacity as set out in its local Development Plan”

Fact: Hampshire’s Minerals and Waste Plan clearly shows the county already has more than enough waste recovery capacity – both now and into the future.

* 5 Fiction: “The development will support the Green Recovery”

Fact: Incineration is known to reduce recycling and Hampshire is failing to meet recycling targets, languishing at 198th in local authority league tables.

* 6 Fiction: “The facility will result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to landfill”

Fact: The facility would be worse than landfill as recycling of food and plastic waste increases. It would emit 330,000 tonnes of CO2 per year: equivalent to an extra 100,000 cars on our roads.

* 7 Fiction: “It will create 40 permanent jobs”

Fact: The MRF employs 65 people now, so that’s actually a loss of 25 local jobs.

* 8 Fiction: “It will be climate positive”

Fact: To be carbon positive you have to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than you put into it. This is technically just not possible for a facility that releases one tonne of CO2 for every tonne of waste burnt.

* 9 Fiction: “Sprinklers and cannons will prevent waste igniting”

Fact: Veolia has a history of fires, typically one every three years at their incinerators. A fire occurred at their Alton MRF last Friday, August 27. The facility had to be evacuated and the fire brigade had to attend.

* 10 Fiction: “Firewater would be stored in a large tank onsite”

Fact: The proposed tank is 90 per cent smaller than standard requirements. Firewater run-off would pollute the principal aquifer and River Wey. Because of this the Fire Brigade have said they might have to let a fire at the site burn itself out.

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