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”