UK may have to import rubbish for incinerators

Waste Britain: Improved recycling rates mean that we may not have enough garbage to feed planned new plants

A A A

Environmental groups are demanding an end to the building of new waste incinerators, which they say will undermine recycling. Experts question whether Britain will produce enough household waste to fuel energy-from-waste plants as the country improves its recycling efforts. And they warn that waste will have to be diverted from sustainable recycling schemes or imported from elsewhere to keep a rash of new planned waste incinerators working.

The UK has 25 waste incinerators, but, according to the UK Without Incineration Network, there are a further 65 "potential" incinerators outlined for England, nine in Scotland and one for Wales. Environmentalists are calling for a moratorium, urging the Government to take a more sustainable approach to waste management.

Last week, the coalition government announced a review of waste policies in England. It will include consideration of "how to ensure the right contribution of energy from waste, including delivery of a step change in generation from anaerobic digestion", a method of processing biological wastes that generates methane which can be used to produce power and heat, as well as a soil improver. Preliminary findings are not due to be published until next year.

Incinerator policy will come under scrutiny next month when the public inquiry into a proposed 180,000-ton energy recovery facility at Rufford, Nottinghamshire, recommences. Becky Slater, campaign assistant at Friends of the Earth, said the UK should learn from Europe, where some countries with many incinerators "are now finding they are struggling to fill them and recycling rates are being restricted".

In Hampshire, where the Veolia waste contractor operates three incinerators, a shortage of municipal waste has already led the company to seek to vary the plants' planning conditions to allow them to process more commercial waste and, potentially, import waste from outside the county. A county council spokeswoman denied the incinerators would impact on recycling. However, only one of the county's 14 local authorities recycles domestic food waste – the rest incinerate it.

Gill Weeks, of the Environmental Services Association, the trade body representing the UK's waste management industry, claimed there was particular overcapacity in Germany and the Netherlands, with other EU member states exporting waste there. Campaigners warn that the possibility of overcapacity in the UK arises because waste levels across the country are now in decline as Britons get better at recycling. Official statistics show collected municipal waste in England alone decreased by 4.1 per cent to 27.3 million tons in 2008-09, compared to 28.5 million tons in 2007-08. The proportion of municipal waste being recycled or composted increased from 34 per cent to 36.9 per cent in the same period, while waste incinerated with energy recovery rose from 11.1 per cent to 12.2 per cent. Landfill disposal fell from 54.4 per cent to 50.3 per cent.

"If you combine that stabilisation of waste growth and an ever-increasing recycling rate, it shows we need to be very careful not to build too much infrastructure to deal with waste," said Ms Slater. Despite this, there has been a "surge" of PFI incinerator proposals, she said.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says there are 39 waste PFI projects, two of which are operational and two which are being built. Four more await a planning inquiry or appeal. Environmentalists warn that PFI agreements lock councils into expensive, inflexible, long-term contracts that make predicting future recycling rates difficult.

A Defra spokesman said the priority was to prevent waste being created, but that there would always be some unavoidable waste. "Reusing and recycling this waste is important, but where this can't happen, a more environmentally friendly alternative to sending it to landfill can be to use it to generate power for homes and businesses," he added. "We monitor potential waste-incineration capacity very closely and we do not believe at this stage there will be overcapacity. Many European countries such as the Netherlands have a higher rate of recycling than England and combine it with high rates of incineration."

Additional reporting by Pavan Amara

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Arts and Entertainment
music

News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £160 per day + mileage and expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This out...

KS2 supply teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting fo...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album