19 Feb 2010

Incineration is wrong

Nicola Hillary, a Green party member, had her letter published in the local papers this week about the Paul Connett talk and incineration. It was not specifically a local Green party policy letter (see that here), but more a personal view - it raised some interesting discussions....letter first....but also see link at bottom re email campaign against incineration.....

Cartoon: By Russ

I went along to the presentation on waste and incineration at King Stanley Village Hall on 4th February with with the view that incineration was not such a bad thing, but I have now been completed convinced that Gloucestershire County Council is about to take a disastrous decision by building an incinerator for our waste.

The speaker, Dr Paul Connett, is a Professor of Chemistry from New York, an international waste expert with years of experience, who had recently been called to advise the UN on incineration. He was an amazing speaker, very passionate and entertaining.

The big problems with incineration of our waste is the dioxins and nanoparticles of toxic heavy metals which is produced in the burning, and there is no technology - and no prospect of any technology - which can remove them from the output of an incinerator. These dioxins are hormone-mimickers which can cause all sorts of trouble when they get in our bodies. Apart from anything else they get concentrated by a huge amount when eaten by cows - and thus get into the milk - and there are loads of dairy farms near Javelin Park. Also, they are particularly harmful to babies in the womb, and as the mother of two small children, that is enough to convince me.

What about the electricity that could be produced? Well apparently incineration is an incredibly expensive way to produce electricity, we would be better spending our money on other renewable energy schemes.

Dr Connett described many communities in Europe and North America who he had been involved with, who had achieved 70-80% recycling of waste, through nothing more technological than weekly door-step collections of recycling, rubbish and food waste, combined with dedicated repair and recycling centres at household waste sites, which saved from landfill so much of the stuff that could be repaired, stripped down or of use to somebody. Obviously this costs money - the food waste collections in the Stanleys were stopped because of the cost - but will it really cost more than the millions of an incinerator?

Also, the clincher is that incineration of 4 tonnes of rubbish leaves 1 tonne of highly toxic ash, which needs to be landfilled. So we can do just as well if we achieve 70-80% recycling. But the toxic ash is so toxic that other countries such as Japan, Germany and Austria treat it as they do their nuclear waste - vitrifying it into glass or burying it in protective containers in salt mines.

It would seem preferable to aim to recycle 80% of our rubbish leaving just 20% that it is not possible to recycle but that is at least not highly toxic. Lets take on the 80% challenge.

Council chiefs need to rule out the possibility of an incinerator to deal with the county’s waste.

Yours sincerely, Nicola Hillary

Well for some, the dioxins are the least important aspect - an issue I've talked about before - indeed some campaigners against incineration question whether they are any worse than particulates from traffic and other sources - however I do think there is an issue re nanoparticles and I have no problem with adding this objection to the many other reasons why we should not have an incinerator.

The crucial issue re incineration must surely be that it is a colossal waste of resources. Our waste is going to become an increasingly important source of raw materials. Furthermore a large incinerator has a huge potential to be a white elephant that ties us into a 24 year plus contract. This would exclude rapidly developing technologies and could even leave us open to paying compensation to contractors if we don't produce enough waste.

And yes we are right to call for 80% recycled (and indeed more - FoE estimate 93% of domestic waste is recyclable in the longer term) - it is shocking the County are talking about a miserable 60% - however the question is about the residual waste - ie the remaining 20% (if we go for 80% in the next few years) - that 20% is want the county wants the incinerator for - we need solutions for the remaining waste - and indeed there are alternatives to incineration like MBT with AD that are much better.

See FoE email campaign here against incineration and my report re the Paul Connett evening here.

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