Green light for Shropshire Council's £2m pyrolysis plant plan
A £2 million plan for Shropshire Council to develop a carbon-saving pyrolysis plant has been backed by councillors.
The project will see the authority become the first in the country to have its own pyrolysis unit, and marks a major step towards its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Councillors voted to proceed with the scheme at a meeting of the full council.
The facility, to be based in either Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth or Ludlow, is expected to more than halve the council’s carbon footprint, bring in extra income and provide green energy to local businesses.
It will work by processing green waste leave behind a versatile carbon-storing material called biochar.
Deputy council leader Ian Nellins, cabinet member for climate change and the environment, said: “Our estate requires the removal of thousands of tonnes of biomass each year, which is currently a financial burden.
“In some cases this results in some areas not being managed as effectively as they could be, in the best interests of biodiversity.
“Our climate change strategy has a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030, but emissions reductions alone is not sufficient. We also need to consider greenhouse gas removal methods.”
Councillor Nellins said the scheme would have “considerable economic and environmental benefits”.
The biochar produced can be used to improve soil quality on farmland, prevent pollutants entering rivers, be utilised in the construction of new buildings and roads, and even be used to reduce odour and ammonia pollution from chicken sheds.
The income the council expects to generate from the facility – through the gate fees Veolia will have to pay to process the green waste, plus the sale of the biochar, heat, electricity and ‘carbon credits’ – means it will have effectively paid itself off in six years.
With the volume of green waste the council collects from households and its own countryside sites and roadside verges, there is potential to scale up the project by adding more units to the original site, as well as creating new sites created across the county.
The idea was welcomed by Green group leader Julian Dean, who said he was pleased the Conservative administration was not following the government’s lead following Rishi Sunak’s announcement that he was scaling back the country’s environmental pledges.
Councillor Dean said: “Last night’s appalling statements from the Prime Minister are economically illiterate as well as taking us backwards on our drive towards zero carbon.
“I am glad to see at least from this report that we are not taking a lead from that atrocious speech.”
Councillor Claire Wild praised the work of the council officers who have been working on the project behind the scenes for three and a half years.
She said: “The foresight within this project is amazing. This is an absolutely great project and something we should all be proud of.”
However some concerns were raised that councillors had not been given enough information about the scheme before being asked to vote on it.
Councillor Heather Kidd, a former science teacher, said: “There are some really important questions I want to be able to ask about this before I can say this is a really good thing.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Roger Evans proposed deferring a decision until the next full council meeting in December, to allow councillors to be briefed on the project.
Councillor Viv Parry, who represents the area of Ludlow where the unit could potentially be situated, said affected residents should also be consulted with.
However Councillor Dean said: “We don’t want to send the message that we have doubts about this.”
The proposal to defer the matter was voted down and members voted to give the go ahead to the project.