Environment Bill Committee Stage Day 5 – Waste

We all know that the international waste economy is a nasty, polluting system, where the richest countries are using the poorest countries as dump sites—as giant landfill sites. Many people would be outraged to see that the recycling that they so carefully do is just baled up and dumped on poor countries and among poor communities, who then have to suffer the pollution that it causes.

I am also concerned about the increasing capacity of UK incinerators. From what I can see, the planned capacity of these incinerators will soon far exceed the amount of waste that the UK produces. Many local authorities are, of course, tied into 25-year contracts with such businesses. This means they will be looking around for waste to burn.

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Environment Bill: Plastics

The cheapest immediate option is often one of the most expensive if you look over its lifetime: cheapest is not the best. We have to look at and understand the future repercussions of everything we do. Government and Parliament have vital roles in the transition away from mass plastic. Industry, PR and lobbyists will bleat on about industry-led transition, but this is just greenwashing most of the time. For as long as you can buy bananas wrapped in plastic, you can know that the industry claims are nonsense. Parliament has to legislate, and the Government have to lead. This is one of many issues where central government absolutely must get a grip on local authority recycling services and set basic minimum standards across the country.

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Environment Bill: My air pollution amendment

I have worked the issue of air pollution on since 2001. The sources of air pollution are widespread: industry, transport, buildings and agriculture are all major contributors. We have to understand how each of those can be cleaned up and improved, not just for all of us who breathe it in in the cities, but for farmers who also experience a huge amount of pollution in their daily lives.

Air pollution has been found to cause death after a coroner ruled it was a cause of death for Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah. The coroner in Ella’s case said that “there is no safe level for Particulate Matter” in air and recommended a reduction in the national pollution limits to bring them into line with World Health Organization guidelines, which is exactly what my Amendment 29 would do. Continue reading “Environment Bill: My air pollution amendment”

Burning waste: Letter to Climate Change Committee

Thank you for your response to my previous letter regarding incineration and climate change. I am writing to you ahead of the publication of the CCC 6th Carbon Budget advice to government to draw your attention to serious failures in your previous analysis of this issue.

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Incinerators have no place in a zero-carbon world

I find it infuriating that Labour and Lib Dem councils are still approving waste from energy incinerators while their national parties declare a Climate Emergency. Labour have passed a motion at their conference aiming for zero carbon by 2030, but contracts between local authorities and incineration companies will last well beyond this timescale.

In 2016 waste incinerators officially accounted for 10.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases and that total is going up rapidly as we burn more waste.  The real total is double that according to analysis done by the ‘No Incinerator UK’ campaign, who point out that the amount of plastic being burnt has gone up rapidly since 2011 when the government last calculated the mix of waste that was being put into incinerators.

A quick glance at oil company profits from recent years shows that plastic production has become crucial to their profitability with plastics accounting for half of global oil consumption growth to 2040. Oil, in the form of plastic, is the ideal fuel for incinerators and enables them to reach the temperatures where everything else burns nicely. We want to stop cars using petrol in the next ten years, so why are we happy for incinerators to use it?

Burning more than we recycle

Over two years ago, I predicted that we would now be reaching the point where we burnt more household waste than we recycled and the 2018/19 figures from DEFRA, due to be published this December, will confirm that I was right. I have been warning that this would happen since my time as a London Assembly member, when it became clear that several London boroughs were tied into incineration contracts that inevitably led to them recycling far less than neighbouring boroughs. Continue reading “Burning more than we recycle”