Sheffield’s Arboricultural Arisings -Green Washing Green Waste

Electricity generated from biomass is spuriously subtitled as ‘green energy’, it emits more carbon than burning coal, yet is sold as ‘renewable’ – so therefore it is the axiom forestry is sustainable = that any and all trees burned can be replaced*.

Visit the Côte d’Azur in October and you will not fail to notice the heavy smog, the result of many hundreds, if not thousands, of large bonfires, burning the garden waste accumulated during the ‘no burn’ season. It is heartbreaking, and lung damaging, to watch so much potential energy wasted. To take the green waste away is a huge cost, particularly galling as the waste, either as compost or chippings, is sold on again. One would think it a no-brainer to have a small local biomass operation which can collect the waste at no cost as it can earn good money from electricity sales. Indeed surely this ‘wooden gold’ should be sold to the biomass plant.

Therefore plans for regional (I have even seen the word community used), biomass plants in the UK doing just this with ‘Arboricultural Arisings‘ makes considerable common sense.

However as with so many landscape issues in the UK there doesn’t appear to be much middle ground. A good idea is something the UK habitually runs away with, investing massively, promoting via government itself, without ever answering several questions – not least ‘how are you going to meet supply demands in the least forested country in Europe?’

But as multi-national companies take increasingly larger chunks of the ‘land management industries’ pie in the UK, operating sometimes with apparent immunity to existing good practice guidance should profit margins dictate, the situation takes a nasty turn for the worse. What should provide a solid base price for all wood waste, from forestry, arboriculture even gardening is lost in a world of corporate dealings which take little consideration of source, if any at all.

I am sure that someone realises’ the fragility of the biomass industry in terms of the current global political situation, post Brexit and shades of orange fascism looming across the Atlantic notwithstanding. 1,000,000,000 tonnes of American forest are required to help supply Drax. So why is the call ‘we need to plant lots of trees quickly’ so quiet?

Perhaps, as it appears from Sheffield’s unjustifiable tree slaughter, the answer is that short term gain from felling mature street trees is enough to see us through the difficult times until we can secure a deal with another tropical or boreal forest rich nation?

The street trees belonging to the people of Sheffield are being supplied as biomass and then sold back to them as energy!

An FOI request by one of the tree campaigners in Sheffield received this response:

The trees that are being replaced as part of the Streets Ahead project are either dead, diseased, dying, causing disruption/damage to their surroundings including carriageway and footway surfacing and third party structures or are potentially hazardous/a threat to health and safety.
 
Trees removed are generally used in the biomass industry. Amey, however, work with local community enterprises, charities and community groups to ensure maximum benefit to the local community.
*Replaced. The word ‘Replacement’, enshrined in planning requirements for trees, is something we surely need the forestry and arboricultural industries to define better. The difference between the volume of a mature tree and its’ replacement (increasingly in urban areas the sickliest of saplings) discount its purpose in providing longevity for biomass supply let alone the supply of all the myriad of other benefits a mature tree provides.
The volume and surface area of trees are being ignored too readily by too many.
Meanwhile the forestry industry, 10 times that of fishing and with a really strong future is all but completely forsaken – lost in the bottom of ministers in trays, whilst investment opportunities in biomass are found towards the top.
The UK’s obsession with large scale biomass allows the energy industry and politicians to sit amongst real champions of renewable energy in the false believe they are their peers. In order to cut loose from this deception – pay serious attention to the forestry and arboriculture industries instead, who are the only people who can deliver into perpetuity and with real green credentials.

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2 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

2 responses to “Sheffield’s Arboricultural Arisings -Green Washing Green Waste

  1. Roderick Leslie

    Exactly the conclusion I reached when writing the Government’s woodfuel strategy: the assumed, received wisdom was to supply big plants generating electricity but smaller. local use for direct heat (nearly 50% of our energy use is heat) obviously looks much better. The policy was launched at Bristol City’s Blaise nursery where a 250kw Binder chip boiler had replaced a propane burner and it is fuelled by Bristol’s arb arisings. What came next was the renewable Heat Incentive, supporting alol sorts from anaerobic digestion to ground source heat pumps, but aimed very much at supporting farmers. However, from the very start it was wood that caught on, with over 1,000 installations using 1 million tonnes of wood a year and with a total Government commitment of £1 billion. And it has probably been the least controversial of all renewable projects – which is why noone has heard of it !

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