It might be tempting to think we can burn our way out of the waste issue, but incineration is no solution.
Have a glance at this quick video for an overview of the issues surrounding incineration.
What’s Wrong With Incineration?
Incineration will turn Cheshire into a dumping ground.
The financial model upon which incinerators are built is that they require 24 hour operation 365 days a year for around 30 years to achieve the payback anticipated by their investors. To achieve this they must be constantly fed with waste. Where is all this waste going to come from?
Cheshire’s domestic waste after recycling is around 360,000 tonnes a year – the Peel Holdings site alone would swallow the entire year’s waste in less than six months. These proposals would turn Cheshire into a waste dumping ground for the entire North West.
Incineration Undermines Recycling Efforts
The incineration industry and the government argue that incineration and recycling can exist side by side. In reality, however, in areas where incinerators are built, the incentive is for the local authority to ensure enough waste is produced to feed the incinerator, not to ensure that waste is reduced.
Incineration Drives Down House Prices
House prices in the immediate vicinity of an incinerator typically fall by around 20% after the plant is operational because people are reluctant to purchase a home in the potentially toxic fall-out zone around the incinerator.
Incineration Increases Traffic Problems
The increased traffic flow caused by heavy refuse lorries travelling to and from incinerators compounds congestion, noise and pollution in the surrounding area. A typical 350,000 tonne incinerator could require up to 300 lorry movements a day to keep it stocked with waste.
Incinerators Produce Toxic Emissions
All incinerator chimneys produce toxic output. Much will be made of the fact that any gases or particulates pass stringent tests before they are released but that’s not the whole picture.
Not only do they legally output huge amounts of toxic materials from the chimney, including dioxins, mutagens and products of incomplete combustion (PICs), but they also output stuff that really shouldn’t be released. For example, when we are told that they are operating within limits, what we aren’t told is that they aren’t obliged to measure toxic output during start up and cool down, yet these are the times when the burners are working under optimum performance and the greatest concentration of ‘nasties’ are produced.
What we are told comes out of the chimney, and what actually comes out can be worlds apart.
Incinerators Produce Toxic Waste
Apart from the chimney output, the plant will also produce ash of differing levels of toxicity. You will be told the bottom ash can be disposed of safely, even made into housing materials and road fill, but recent studies have cast doubt on these uses as it still remains toxic. The heavily toxic fly ash needs to be disposed of as hazardous waste so this presents yet another problem – transporting it away from the site and finding a suitable site to bury it in.
Incinerators Are Bad For Your Health
A recent report from the British Society for Ecological Medicine (2006) concluded that “Incinerator emissions are a major source of fine particulates, of toxic metals and of more than 200 organic chemicals, including known carcinogens, mutagens, and hormone disrupters. These outputs can bioaccumulate, enter the food chain and cause chronic illness over time and a much wider geographical area.”
There is sufficient evidence to show that over time the cumulative effect of even the most modern incinerators causes health problems, both for the immediate vicinity and downwind of the sites.
The British Society for Ecological Medicine has published a new report on the health effects of waste incinerators. The report is even more damming than the society’s previously published report and recommends that no more waste incinerators be built. Read the non-technical summary here.
A study published in Environmental Health (2007) supports the view that there is a link between dioxin exposure and sarcoma (a form of cancer).
The Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA) website also gives the incineration-health debate a good airing.