Environmentalists question incineration policy

Environmental group, Friends of the Earth, has questioned the Environment Agency’s policy regarding mass incineration of household waste.

In a letter to the Environment Agency’s Chairman, Sir John Harman, Friends of the Earth criticises the organisation’s forecast that up to 69 municipal waste incinerators will be required across the country, each burning 300,000 tonnes of waste per year. Friends of the Earth points out that the health implications caused by incineration are unknown, and points out that the UK’s recycling rate is far less than a number of other European countries.

Friends of the Earth claims that the Environment Agency’s assumption that municipal waste will increase at a rate of 3% per year, resulting in 80% more waste by 2020 has very little evidence to support it. The Environment Agency also vastly underestimates the level of recycling and composting that can be achieved, pointing out that its target of 33.8% recycling and 7.9% composting by 2020 has already been surpassed by the Netherlands who currently composts and recycles nearly double that amount. Even in the UK, says Friends of the Earth, a recent recycling trial in Colchester, Essex achieved a recycling rate of 57% after just three months.

“Residents across the country will be rightly furious that the

Environment Agency, which is supposed to be championing the environment, is planning for dozens of incinerators to be built,” said Sarah Oppenheimer, Waste Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Rather than burning used natural resources we should be putting more effort into producing less waste and increasing the amount that can be recycled. The

Environment Agency should be putting its efforts into matching the recycling achievements of our European neighbours rather than condemning valuable materials to these industrial bonfires.”

What is contained in the strategic waste management assessments are merely a series of scenarios, of which the pure incineration option is only one, and would only be adopted if none of the others were, an Environment Agency spokesman told edie, pointing out that the Agency is merely the regulator for incinerators, and does not decide how many are built. This is an issue that should be of concern to everyone, which is why the information is in the public arena, said the spokesman. The information is intended to contribute to the debate on waste management which will decide how many, if any incinerators are built, he said.

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