Wasteology are applying for a low-level clinical waste incinerator at Greenham Quarry, near the A38, where they have existing waste operations. At this stage, the application is only on what to cover in an environmental assessment for the facility. This would be required for a future application for the plant itself, which has not yet been submitted, although there are details of what is proposed in the current application.

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The incinerator would be in a new building (20m x 10m and 6m high) along with an exhaust chimney (15m high). The proposed plant would operate 24 hours a day, with vehicle movements taking place within 7am-6pm Monday to Friday, and 7am-1pm on Saturdays. A total of up to 4 vehicles per day would visit the site, with payloads up to 6-8 tonnes.

The application says: “the majority of the facility will not be visible from beyond the quarry due to the elevate quarry walls and surrounding dense woodland. However, it will be necessary for a modest sized flue stack to protrude above the lip of the quarry by a small amount to allow appropriate dispersion of the facility’s emissions.”

Up to 3,500 tonnes per annum of low-level clinical wastes, such as used PPE (personal protective equipment), would be processed. After incineration, outputs would be about 550 tonnes per annum, with two-thirds being incinerator bottom ash and one-third air pollution control waste, which will be taken off-site for disposal.

The application has been submitted to Somerset County Council (SCC), as the planning authority for waste management. A future application for the plant would be assessed against SCC’s Waste Local Plan, Somerset West and Taunton Council’s Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.

Wasteology’s agent has requested the environmental assessment covers: air quality and health; noise; odour; alternatives, site selection and suitability; climate change; landscape and visual impact. It has been requested the following be excluded: highways and access; ecology; flood risk and drainage; archaeology; ground conditions and soil quality; and socio-economics, such as local jobs. Reasons for the exclusions are given in a report accompanying the current application.

Comments have been submitted to SCC to request that ecology and highways be included in an application, which I am told should be required, although maybe not as part of the environmental assessment.

SCC have given reassurance that they will notify and consult with Stawley Parish Council and local neighbours, if Wasteology proceed and submit a planning application for the incinerator. Others will be able to submit comments for SCC to take into account too.

A full planning application should provide information on the expected impact of the plant, which can be challenged if needed.

Further details should be provided then on the type of clinical waste to be incinerated. The current application only mentions PPE, which should be separated according to whether patients treated are infectious or non-infectious. Incineration is common for both types. PPE can be collected with other types of clinical waste too, including wipes, dressings, bandages, incontinence waste and nappies.

There may be concerns, including on carbon and other polluting emissions and on why the plant is proposed for this location.

Some may question the need for another incinerator in the region. Clinical waste can be reduced by better segregation at point of use and some items could be reused or avoided. Some materials if present, like glass and metals, could be safely recycled. And there are alternatives to incineration with lower impacts, include pyrolysis and autoclaves, although these are less well established as full treatment options.

There is work underway on creating a greener NHS, which is to include a new clinical waste strategy.

I am working with parish councils on the proposed incinerator, while waiting for an expected planning application to come forward.

UPDATE: The scoping opinion application was approved by Somerset County Council on 14 March 2022.

PHOTOGRAPH (geograph.org.uk/p/5549088 by Jonathan-Thacker): This shows the SRCL clinical waste incinerator at Avonmouth which has an annual capacity of 6,570 tonnes.

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