Gloucestershire is building a big bonfire of waste. To last for eternity

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Gloucestershire is building a big bonfire of waste. To last for eternity
A 70-metre-high waste incinerator is being built next to the M5 Marooned on the flatlands between the Severn river and the Cotswolds escarpment, Stonehouse in Gloucestershire isn’t the sort of place to make the news. But, of late, outrage has been the dominant emotion here as construction traffic has brought what was a country village to a standstill. Blue plastic barriers proliferate, mobile traffic lights are set down apparently at random and workers clad in hi-vis saunter about with the swagger of the new sheriff in town.
While the slow crawl of traffic to and from the M5 is frustrating, it is the cause of the blockage that is more troubling. Stonehouse is being dug up to lay a cable to service the giant waste monster being built next to junction 12 of the M5, an edifice that its opponents warned would grow to four times the size of nearby Gloucester cathedral, a glorious testament to the grand folly of another age.
This new monster will soar 70 metres into the air and, say the unbelievers, spew out enough fumes to poison all the hearty recyclers and sinning trash humpers of Gloucestershire. For this is the antichrist of recycling, a beast with sufficient fire in its belly to turn all it is offered to smoke.
While the rest of Europe (yes, yes, including Iceland) agonises over the intractable evil of plastic packaging, Gloucestershire is building a very big bonfire. For eternity. A continual blaze of the unconvertible, Salem without the trial, the Inferno without Purgatory.

Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate - sent direct to you
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The Javelin Park incinerator, or to give it the official name, the Gloucestershire Energy from Waste plant, gained planning approval in 2015 amid much controversy. After first rejecting it, the Conservative-led county council approved the bid by Urbaser Balfour Beatty to build a waste incinerator converting waste bound for landfill to electricity bound for the national grid.
To equal parts dismay and delight, there were a few hiccups on the way: groups opposed to the scheme argued that the science didn’t really add up, nor did the environmental benefits – what with the likelihood that most of the 190,000 tonnes of stuff being burnt each year could actually be recycled – or the health benefits, what with the inconvenient plume of shame lingering over the models and maps of the surrounding countryside.
Or how about the scenario where Gloucestershire discovers its recycling mojo and fails to produce enough black bag landfill to feed the monster, leading to the spectre of imported rubbish to make up the operating shortfall?
But forget the morals: what about the politics or, better still, the money! Conservatives + huge construction company = well, go figure, or go Google, whichever comes more naturally. Javelin Park’s opponents did that and came to the conclusion that something funny had gone on. Why else, they argued, would a council give the go-ahead to a £500m scheme in these austere times? Five hundred million pounds is the polite way of saying half a billion pounds.
The Competition and Markets Authority called it in and found there was nothing to the claims of skullduggery, the planning inspector called it in, by which time there was a glimmer of sympathy for the fire-spitting beast, for what had it done to deserve this uncommissioned state of limbo? But hold, a greater force was at work in the form of an intervention by the then secretary of state Eric Pickles, Lord Protector of our Communities, and a proclamation was issued and the protestors did abate and Javelin Park did issue forth.
The Guardian view on recycling: throwaway economy is not cost-free
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It’s all history now, battles past, and the beast rears its head, the cranes drawing it up from the ground sinister in their stillness, serene against the rush and clamour of the motorway.
Soon, when the cable is laid, and the workers in their high-vis, with their parked vans and roadside apologies have trundled on, the traffic jam will end and there will be new signs: bring forth your unrecyclables, they shall proclaim, your black bags, your landfill and lo, it shall be smitten, dust to dust, ashes to ashes.
Ashes, of course, might be a problem. Anyone have a solution for disposing of up to 9,000 tonnes of ash each year? Landfill? Black bags in a skip? Maybe the time-honoured country custom of fly-tipping will do.
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