BEFORE too long, the residents of Dorset are likely to be producing more than a million tonnes of waste a year.

That uncomfortable fact a factor in proposals for a new facility which would burn waste and turn it into energy at a rural site near Bournemouth Airport.

Eco Sustainable Solutions is the company behind the plan for a low carbon energy recovery facility (ERF) at Chapel Lane.

Hundreds of objections have been sent to council officials. Autism Wessex’s Portfield School, the site’s nearest neighbour, has voiced “grave concern”, while Hurn Parish Council has claimed there could be an adverse effect on nearby heathland.

But Natural England is satisfied with the proposals and environmental health officials have not raised concerns about the impact on neighbours. The site was earmarked in the Waste Plan that was adopted by Dorset’s councils.

The Daily Echo visited Eco Sustainable Solutions to hear the company’s case for the new facility.

What is Eco Sustainable Solutions?

Eco was formed in 1993 by managing director Trelawney Dampney.

A friend had told him about a visit to Germany where ha had seen garden waste collected and turned into compost.

Mr Dampney’s own was founded to do the same thing, composting garden waste from around Dorset and selling it to local landscapers. Some of those original customers are still with the business today.

Today, Eco supplies compost, soils and turf, as well as mulches, barks and playground surfaces. It composted its one millionth tonne last year.

Dorset's food waste goes to an anaerobic digestion plant at Piddlehinton near Dorchester, where microorganisms break down biodegradable material to turn it into renewable energy and soil improver.

In 2015, Eco finished building the UK’s largest solar energy farm, and followed this with a biomass facility – where energy is produced from waste – at its Parley head office.

The Parley park is carbon positive – meaning it saves more carbon than it uses. The solar panels generate enough power to supply more than 20,000 local homes.

What would the energy recovery facility at Parley be for?

Between them, the residents of the BCP Council and Dorset Council areas generate around 850,000 tonnes of waste a year. Around 60 per cent is recycled, which is ahead of the national average.

“That 850,000 is due to grow to just over 1million tonnes with more housing being built and more people moving into the area,” said Justin Dampney, chief operating officer of the business his father founded.

“If we take that headline figure of 1m tonnes, we’re going to work really hard to reduce waste by 10 per cent, you’re still at 950,000 tonnes.

“Even if we had 80 per cent recycling, there would still be 180,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste.

“Our proposal is to recycle a third of that here – 60,0000 tonnes.”

The Chapel Gate Energy Recovery Facility begin by sifting that non-recyclable waste for any remaining valuable material, before turning the rest into energy.

The waste would be tipped inside a building which would be kept under negative air pressure to contain smells.

It would then be burned to recover energy and generate steam, which would drive a turbine, creating electricity for businesses or homes and the National Grid. The remaining heat could be used in nearby buildings or manufacturing.

The plan is to generate 3.4MWe (Megawatts electric) of electricity for export and around 11.5MWth (Megawatts thermal) of heat.

The key environmental benefit, the company says, is that it would stop thousands of tonnes of waste being shipped hundreds of miles to be buried in landfill sites.

What would be the environmental impact?

Many objections to the application have been about quality, smells and lorry movements.

Eco insists any smells would be contained inside the building – pointing out that little to no smell escapes its current waste into energy operations there.

The building would have a 16metre chimney stack and the building would be lower than the biofuel plant which it would replace.

Trelawney Dampney says the emissions from the chimney stack would be monitored all the time. “There’s a real time monitor on the chimney stack with a link to the Environment Agency office. It’s monitored every second of every day by the Environment Agency,” he said.

There would be new trees, bunding and mounting to screen the site.

Extra HGV movements would amount to about one per hour, Eco says, while the project would reduce the miles travelled by waste on its way out of the area.

Public Health England says modern, well run energy recovery facilities do not pose a significant risk to public health, and Eco says local monitoring shows emissions from existing operations at Parley are lower than for similar sites.

Community involvement

The new waste facility would come with a visitor and education centre, promoting the themes of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Eco says reducing that figure of 1million tonnes of waste will require everyone to think about what they buy and consume.

The centre would bring more local people onto the site – and the company says it would have welcomed more visitors during the consultations on its plans, if it could.

“We haven’t been able to bring people to the site and show them what we’re currently doing and what we’re proposing to do,” said Justin Dampney.

“Of the meetings we did have with stake holders, they were really positive.”

Trelawney Dampney insists local people do not need to be concerned.

“I live two miles down the road. If I thought there was a problem I certainly wouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

“Also, it wouldn’t be sustainable. It would be madness to do something that’s not sustainable.”