Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Incinerators propagate the waste problem not solve it!

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According to the Environment Agency the UK currently produces 330 million tonnes of waste each year, a quarter of which is from households and businesses (construction, demolition, sewage sludge, farm waste, spoils from mines and dredging of rivers makes up the rest).That’s the weight equivalent of tens of millions of double-decker buses that, end to end, would stretch around the Earth many times. Its about 5.5 tonnes for every single individual living here, including hundreds of thousands of tonnes from West Country households and its literally a huge problem.

Thankfully there is a very useful concept which, if we can apply it properly and consistently, will tackle this waste mountain and so the multiple problems that go with it. The waste management hierarchy is a ranking of waste management options in order of efficiency and effectiveness.

Priority one is the prevention of waste through reduction/minimisation strategies. After reduction comes object reuse so that they do not enter the waste stream eg refilling containers. It is not until one gets down to the third level in the hierarchy that one gets to recycling and composting, which still give significant benefits particularly in terms of energy saving . The recovery of energy from waste by a whole range of methods (some much more environmentally friendly than others) is fourth in the list, just above waste disposal. Waste disposal is at the bottom of the hierarchy and includes final disposal to landfill and the incineration of waste without recovering the energy.

Given the clear message from the waste management hierarchy and the amount of talk we get these days about being green one would think that our local councils would be ready, willing and able to focus in on the top three options as a priority. Not so I’m afraid. The West of England Joint Residual Municipal Waste Strategy recommends that we build a so-called "energy from waste" plant (a mere fourth out of five in the ranking list) to process our residual waste from 2015 onwards. Moreover, it’s a huge plant that incinerates waste on a mass scale that is proposed, (albeit with electricity being produced). Such a monstrosity would, over the life of contracts lasting decades, demand to be fed huge amounts of waste when we are supposed to be heading in the opposite direction!! It’s a clear sign that we have so far failed to even approach the issue of waste properly and that its still waste maximisation that rules. To find out more visit the Bristol Against Mass Burn Incineration (BAMBI) website:
http://www.bambi-network.org.uk/index.php . To sign the petition against go to: http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/petition.php?id=180