Business

Knowaste to appeal after nappy recycling plant plans rejected over smell

Knowaste to appeal after nappy recycling plant plans rejected over smell
Nappy and absorbent hygiene product (AHP) recycling company Knowaste is to appeal to the Planning Inspector after Hillingdon Council refused planning permission for a new facility in Hayes, West London, over concerns about potential odour emissions.

Knowaste submitted plans to develop its new £14-million AHP plant in Hayes in September, two years after it suddenly closed its original UK recycling facility in West Bromwich. That closure left several local authorities that had signed up to use the plant and established nappy collection services accordingly ‘in disarray’.

The North American firm, which has been developing technology to recycle AHPs (nappies, incontinence pads and feminine hygiene products) since the 1990s, planned to re-enter the UK market with the Hayes 180 facility, which it said would use ‘bespoke recycling technology’ to process ‘at least 36,000 tonnes’ of AHP waste per year and create 20 jobs.

The plant, which was originally meant to begin operation in early 2017, was planned as a precursor to a second plant in East London.

Risk of odour exposure ‘significantly underestimated’

A report by the Head of Planning, Sport and Green Spaces recommending the rejection of the facility was submitted to and approved by the Hillingdon Council’s Major Applications Planning Committee on Thursday (14 July). It stated that ‘whilst the principle of using the site for waste development is considered acceptable, there are concerns with regards to the impact of the proposal on the nearby residential occupants and schools to the south and west of the site’.

It added that the committee had ‘reservations with the assumptions and conclusions’ of Knowaste’s assessments and modelling of the facility’s odour emissions, suggesting that they ‘significantly underestimate the risk of odour exposure and as a result, there would be notable changes in the odour composition and these would be noxious given the nature of the proposal, and residential nature of the area’.

Knowaste countered that it believes that a ‘comprehensive report into odour management’ had addressed the issue, and that it would have been ‘amenable to additional sensitivity analysis and modelling if adequate time was allowed’.

However, following refusal of the planning permission, the company says that it has been left with no option but to appeal to the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

A statement released by the company states: ‘Throughout the planning process, Knowaste has worked hard to deliver a scheme that surpasses all relevant national and local environmental standards and planning policy, is supported by the Environment Agency and all of the other relevant consultees.

‘Despite inconsistent and intermittent communication from council officers, Knowaste has willingly complied with every request for further information. In March, the original planning application was withdrawn and a fresh application submitted in order to provide a fully-specified Odour Management System and detailed Odour Modelling Study, which at an earlier meeting officers had confirmed would satisfy their requirements as it was the only issue they had with the application.’

Council ‘moving the goalposts’

Following the decision, Paul Richardson, UK Business Development Director at Knowaste, commented: “We are extremely disappointed by the council’s decision to refuse our application. We’ve bent over backwards to supply all the information required and unfortunately our last resort is to appeal this decision. We always wanted to work with Hillingdon Council and the community to secure a local decision, but regretfully the behaviour of the council has left us no choice.

Knowaste's West Bromwich plant
“At each stage in the process, we have provided all the information required for a positive outcome, but at every opportunity council officers have sought to move the goalposts and block this proposal.

“We still want to deliver a huge investment in the local area and grow local skills and job opportunities, but what message does this send in tough economic times – is Hillingdon really closed for business?

“The impact of this decision on our timetable is disappointing as we had already identified a site for plant number two in East London which will proceed as planned, although it may become plant number one if the appeal process takes too long.”

History of Knowaste in the UK

Knowaste’s recycling process involves taking the AHP waste to an autoclave where it is shredded, separated and then sterilised using advanced thermal treatment technology and sorted to remove any contaminants.

The plastics then continue through a granulation and multi-washing stage, before being pelletised and reprocessed offsite for reuse. Fibres produced by the process are treated for use as a pet litter, which can be bagged on site and distributed to the retail sector.

The West Bromwich plant also had a capacity of 36,000 tonnes a year, but was closed suddenly in May 2013 as part of ‘expansion plans’. The Knowaste board said that it had ‘outgrown’ its existing facility, where several local authorities, including Monmouthshire and Cheshire, sent the nappies and other absorbent products they received in dedicated collection services.

Speaking at the time on behalf of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), then-Chair Joy Blizzard said that the local authority nappy recycling schemes would be thrown into ‘disarray’ by the closure.

She said: “Having developed collection schemes for nappies, they are now left with nowhere to recycle them. It’s very disheartening. Knowaste is looking for a new site, but there will be a long gap before their future plans are going to be any use to local authorities. In effect, local authorities are left ‘holding the baby’.”

Despite announcing that it was looking for a new site in the Midlands, no new development was announced until planning applications were submitted for the Hayes 180 facility.

More information about Knowaste can be found on the company’s website.

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