Letters, December 9, 2010, part two

PUBLISHED: 11:08 09 December 2010

Campaign against incinerator heats up

SIR – In response to the comments on landfill, energy, and environmental criteria made by the HCC spokesperson quoted in your article ‘E-petition launch against incinerator’ (December 2), we would like to say the following:

A 275,000 tonne/year incinerator will generate 79,500 tonnes/year of eco-toxic bottom ash and hazardous waste fly ash, most of which will go to landfill.

There are hopes (not well founded) by HCC and the incinerator companies that they will be able to use this material as aggregate and in building blocks; however in the UK the majority of it goes to landfill at present, and there are serious concerns about trying to “recycle” it.

The alternative – to aim towards zero-waste, using high recycling/composting rates, mechanical biological treatment and anaerobic digestion (MBT/AD) – would initially reduce landfill requirement down to, at worst, the same level, and at best, about half that, at a quarter of the cost.

The incinerator’s requirement for landfill would remain constant for 25-30 years. A zero-waste strategy would reduce this down towards zero over 15 years.

The energy produced by an incinerator, would be a small fraction of the energy that was used to extract/mine/harvest/process/transport and then manufacture the raw materials into the products that end up as waste.

The energy used in these processes is between four and 46 times more than can be recovered from an incinerator, and can be saved by re-use/recycling of those materials, instead of burning them.

The zero-waste’s AD process produces clean energy in the form of methane.

As regards environmental criteria the computerised tool used by used by HCC and its consultants to compare greenhouse gas emissions from the different technologies available is flawed (HCC and the Environment Agency are aware of this – but it remains uncorrected). This tool currently favours incineration over MBT/AD, when in fact MBT/AD perform better.

Surrey CC and Lancashire have both rejected incineration in favour of high recycling/composting and alternatives using some or all of the above to divert waste from landfill.

Herts CC must do even better!

The public consultation on the waste strategy ends December 13 and we urge readers to respond –see http://hertswow.webs.com/

The county wide petition is at http://www.petitiononline.com/NoAshHCC/petition.html

DAVID ASHTON

Herts WithoutWaste

SIR – Any treatment of garbage is liable to cost the county dear, unless we can continue to use landfill.

The European Union objection to landfill is that it produces methane, which is claimed to produce the global warming which I have been shovelling off the drive for the past week.

Even if you accept this discredited theory, worldwide landfill contributes less than one tenth of methane getting into the atmosphere.

UK output will be very much less than one per cent of the total methane. Most of the landfill gas produced can be collected and used to produce useful amounts of energy.

The gas engines which are used to produce this energy are cheap and reliable, unlike wind turbines.

The best way of dealing with this ignorant EU interference is to send them the bill for alternatives to landfill.

Or perhaps the Green Party could help? How about them emptying the dog poo out of plastic bags so that the plastic can be recycled?

RICHARD DURRANT

Park Avenue, St Albans

Speed cameras are defended

SIR – In last week’s Herts Advertiser, Eric Bridgstock claimed that speed cameras had a negative impact on road safety and that the county council should scrap them. Mr Bridgstock was described by your reporter as “a speed camera expert”.

By coincidence in the same week the RAC Foundation published a report “The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras: a review of evidence” by Professor Richard Allsop, one of the country’s leading experts on road safety.

Professor Allsop said that the previous study published by the Government in 2005 in favour of speed cameras slightly underestimated their effectiveness in saving lives and serious injuries.

His best estimate now is that 800 more people would be killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in a year if speed cameras were scrapped.

Professor Allsop is Emeritus Professor of Transport Studies, at University College London having been Professor since 1976 and director between then and 1997 of what is now the Centre for Transport Studies.

Commenting on the report, the Director of the RAC Foundation, Professor Stephen Glaister said: “The findings are unambiguous. Cameras have historically saved lives. They continue to save lives. And should they be removed, speeds will rise and so will accidents.”

Professor Glaister is Professor of Transport and Infrastructure in the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College London.

Here we have on the one hand two of the country’s leading experts on road safety telling us, after a detailed review of all the evidence, that speed cameras save lives.

On the other hand we have Mr Bridgstock claiming that they make the roads less safe. I would prefer to rely on the real experts.

Other researchers looking at the efficacy of speed cameras have reached similar conclusions.

In October 2010, one of the world-renowned Cochrane Reviews looked at 35 studies into the effectiveness of speed cameras worldwide and said that “…the consistency of reported reductions in speed and crash outcomes across all studies show that speed cameras are a worthwhile intervention for reducing the number of road traffic injuries and deaths.”

The county council has got it right with its decision to continue funding the speed cameras in the county.

The overwhelming majority (75 per cent) of drivers say that cameras are an acceptable way to identify speeding vehicles. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorists want the speed of traffic reduced on local roads.

Speed limits backed up by cameras are one effective way of achieving this.

JOHN METCALF

St Albans Cycle Campaign (STACC)

SIR – I was interested in your editorial comments about speed cameras.

The editor observes that his godmother was in trouble for driving on autopilot and slightly exceeding the limit.

I would agree that this is something that should be punished less harshly than where a boy racer is doing 60 in a town centre, but I would like to say that I think there is some virtue in having a deterrent to the way in which people drive on autopilot.

This should certainly extend (I think many people would agree) to other factors in accidents, and the technology is there – and should be used – to catch people who use mobiles while driving, fail to indicate in good time, and ignore (if they know it at all) the two-second gap that they should be leaving in dry conditions – much worse when they fail to leave anything like the recommended four-second gap on wet roads, or 20 seconds in ice.

The fact that some speed cameras fail to pay for themselves is astonishing.

Obviously in many cases more money is spent on them than is justified, as your correspondents point out.

To my mind, the country is taxed too heavily as it is, so the (relatively) innocent driver could be paying less in tax if heavy fines were levied on the multitudes of people who totally ignore speed limits and other key rules designed for our safety.

I note with interest the claims that road safety is not really a problem that cameras address effectively.

I do know that the faster you go, the greater the risk of killing or maiming someone for life; and that the fear of being caught is increasingly causing people to slow down.

Clearly there are places where “average speed checks” are better, and maybe this should always be used in order to reduce the numbers of drivers who slow down only for a moment then speed up again.

I would be surprised if the “slow down” signs flashed at those who are over 30mph were more effective than the fear of a fine.

What would work better would be officers filming traffic when they are not expecting it. If this happened more, it would cause people to slow down everywhere and not just on roads with known cameras.

One other point is that if you drive on motorways at 80 instead of 55-60, you are already in effect fining yourself, as the fuel economy goes right down, and the government gets a big chunk of the extra in taxes!

One place I would like to see more traffic calming is where cycle paths cross side roads – but cyclists have to take care there, too. Unfortunately, though, too many ignore the cycle path and just cycle on the road.

S BEAVER

London Road, St Albans

SIR – You are irresponsible and plainly wrong to imply that inappropriate road speed does not increase death or injury, or as you phrase it, repeating the mantra of self-styled speed camera expert Eric Bridgestock “speed cameras do not save lives”, when clearly speed of impact is a key factor in the seriousness of any injury, (better none at all).

Figures quoted by Mr Bridgestock do not show an increase in deaths where cameras are sited. They are effective in reducing the risk, as those who complain acknowledge, who are incidentally in the minority; the AA found in fact that cameras were ‘acceptable’ to over 70 per cent of its members.

On a matter of detail, the prosecution level for speeding in Hertfordshire is the “posted speed limit” plus 10 per cent plus two mph, i.e. over 35mph in a 30mph limit, and proportionally at higher speed limits, so let’s have less of this “just creeping over the limit”.

While the Vehicle Activated Signs have a valid role in reminding drivers of their responsibility within the community, the target of cameras is rather the selfish, guiltless, mindless drivers who have no regard to others’ safety.

DOUG NEVELL

Barnfield Road, Harpenden

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