A new £600m incinerator will be better for the environment than sending waste to landfill, the building company has claimed, as construction continues.
The plant at Rivenhall, near Braintree, Essex, will generate electricity by burning non-recyclable waste from 2025.
Campaigners are concerned about reducing air pollution and recycling rates.
“Putting residual waste into landfill is the worst thing you can do in terms of climate change,” said John Ahern of waste firm Indaver.
“Incineration is an improvement.”
He said about half the cost of the waste-to-energy project, at a former airbase, went into gas cleaning and environmental control technology.
“We can’t just burn things, we’re not allowed to pollute,” he told BBC Essex.
“[Society] produces too much waste [worldwide]and the UK is not self-sufficient in generating its own electricity – we rely on fossil fuels.
“In the long term we have to look at the waste we generate, we have to do better.
“We are solving a problem that exists now.”
Essex County Council granted planning permission for the building in 2010, and the Environment Agency granted permission to operate in 2020.
The firm said it would burn 595,000 tonnes of rubbish from across the region each year and generate enough electricity for 60,000 households.
Construction began in March last year, and initially three million tonnes of soil were moved, Mr Ahern said.
Ten oversized lorries delivering boring and piled machinery from Nottingham passed through villages near the site this week.
Mr Ahern said there were no problems with these and that three more “processes” would take place before the end of the year.
James Abbot, a Green district councilor who stood for wards near the scene, described what Mr Ahern said as “greenwashing”.
He also said that the site would produce 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, making it the largest single producer of CO2 in Essex.
“It will have a huge negative impact on climate change,” he said.
“It will reduce the air quality.
“The rules are that it’s not supposed to produce pollution at a level that will harm human health, but that’s very controversial and those limits keep changing.”
Campaign group Parishes Against Burning said they would continue to protest as construction continued.
Nick Unsworth, from the group and independent councilor for the Braintree area, also said: “We have a longer-term plan, which we are investigating, to monitor our own air quality.”
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