Most people will agree that avoiding landfill and recycling more of our waste is a good thing. But ask them to play host to a waste management facility in their community, and they’ll likely reject it – even fracking enjoysÂ more support.
The latest research from Development Intelligence, reported by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, has found that waste sites are even less popular than fracking sites.
Three quarters of survey respondents said they would oppose the development of a waste site near their home, with less than 2 in 10 saying they’d support it.
Development Intelligence chief executive Nick Keable is reported to have said the study underlines the scale of the challenge facing waste management companies despite the major advances made in clean technologies.
â€œWhile housing developments, wind farms and even fracking have their supporters, it seems that waste facilities are consistently unpopular with local people. There is still a gap between perception and reality, with people fearing the very worst whenever a waste management facility is proposed.”
That gap between perception and reality typically centres on concerns about noise, odour and harmful emissions, and yet such concerns are rooted in the past.
Unlike the incinerators of the 1970s, for instance, that were known for belching black smoke, modern waste-to-energy incinerators are built and operated to be much cleaner. The same is true of sorting facilities where new technology delivers continuous improvements.
Modern regulation is much more fit-for-purpose and better applied too; the planning regime prevents facilities being built in unsuitable locations and the environmental permitting regime then controls localised environmental impacts.
That’s not to say that there aren’t sometimes problems with fugitive smells, but they’re few and far between and typically resolved very quickly.
The reality is we need facilities to process the wastes that society creates – in the most environmentally sound and cost effective way – and they need to be built somewhere, ideally in close proximity to the waste they have to deal with.
Keable is right when he says “You must be prepared to engage with local people and set out a plan to communicate how modern facilities operate to cause minimal disruption â€“ as well as the benefits they can bring to the local community.â€
Early, open, transparent and ongoing dialogue with communities is essential.
Would you support a new waste facility where you live? Let us know in the comments.Â