Monday, July 19, 2010

Incinerators are most definitely toxic, recycle nothing and waste energy and resources

Some of the people organising and backing the Action Group against the planned waste incinerator at Dovesdale. Scotgen executives claim that to call incinerators toxic is not "reasoned debate". The facts from existing incinerators show otherwise. They also waste energy and resources by incinerating plastics and other materials which could be recycled with far lower emissions of CO2 and without spreading toxic chemicals.

The incinerator which the Scotgen company has applied for planning permission for at Dovesdale farm near Stonehouse is one of many planned by the SNP Scottish Executive and mostly Labour and Lib Dem controlled local councils.

They have been presented by the companies building them, the Scottish Executive, local councils and Westminster governments as a way to reduce landfill of rubbish, as “recycling” and as providing “green energy”.

This is either a mistaken view or a dishonest claim.

Lloyd Brotherton of Scotgen quoted in the Evening Times, claims it’s not “reasoned debate” to describe incinerators as “toxic”. So how should we describe incinerators which emit dioxins, heavy metal particles, acid gases and other toxins which cause cancers,  breathing problems and deaths, especially among children? (1) – (6) Mr Brotherton claims calling something which emits toxins toxic is not “reasoned debate”. What’s his reasoning here?

He claims incinerators “recycle” waste into “low carbon power”. Incinerators don’t recycle anything. They incinerate it, creating a mixture of toxins spread as gases and particles on the wind and toxic ash which must be put into landfill, where it can pollute groundwater and soil (1) – (6).

Toxins from the Dovesdale incinerator could be blown anywhere from Motherwell and Wishaw to Carluke and Stonehouse or anywhere else within around a 14 mile radius from the incinerator if it’s built, depending on which way the wind is blowing at the time.

The amount of energy produced by incinerating plastics and other waste is a fraction of the amount required to manufacture new plastics to replace those incinerated, a massive net loss of energy (7) – (8).

Plastics are made using oil, which is a finite resource – i,.e it will run out one day. It’s madness to incinerate plastics we could recycle. What’s more recycling reduces CO2 emissions massively compared to incineration (7) – (8).

Incinerators also emit more CO2 than gas powered power stations per unit of energy provided (9).

The alternatives to both landfill and incineration are simple; recycle more; regulate packaging; and make producers pay for the safe disposal of products, giving them a profit motive to find recyclable or less toxic alternatives (10) – (13).

Labour MSP Karen Gillon has rightly come out against the incinerator, though MPs whose constituents might be affected have so far failed to take any position on it.

If you want to find out more about the campaign against the Dovesdale incinerator and how to object to the planning application and/or write to your elected representatives about it you can go to the Action Group’s website.

If you want more information about incinerators and alternatives to them in general see links on the Action Group’s website and the footnoted links at the bottom of this post.

Any councillor not voting against the application for the planning incinerator may find their coat’s on a shaky nail in next year’s council elections in Scotland.

The Evening Times photo gives the impression of a handful of people opposing the incinerator. In fact at public meetings in villages and towns organised by the Action Group against Dovesdale Incinerator over a hundred people from each village or town regularly turn out - and thousands of letters and emails are being sent to councillors in objection to the planned incinerator

(1) = Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology Post Note 149 December 2000 ‘Incineration of Household Waste’, (see especially ‘Pollutants from incineration’ pages 1 – 2 )

(2) =  Allsop et al (2001) ‘Incineration and Human Health’, Greenpeace Research Laboratories & University of Essex, 2001,

(3) = Greenpeace background on incineration 30 Nov 2004,

(4) = Michela et al (2004) ‘Health effects of exposure to-waste incinerator emissions: a review of epidemiological studies’,

(5) = British Medical Journal 22 Jun 2009 ‘Long term exposure to air pollution decreases life expectancy, UK report finds’,

(6) = World Health Organisation 2006 ‘Principles for evaluating health risks in children associated with exposure to chemicals’ (says in summary (pages 1 -4)  that children are at increased risk from chemicals produced by “unsafe waste disposal”(page 3) at certain stages in their development – and on page 18 that it has been shown that “air pollutants”, “heavy metals” and “POPs” (persistant organic pollutants – which include dioxins) have been shown to lead to an increased incidence of diseases in children.)

(7) = Friends of the Earth September 2007 ‘ Up in Smoke – Why FoE opposes Incineration’, (see pages 6 - 7 under sub-heading ‘Recycling saves energy’)

(8) = Friends of the Earth October 2009 ‘Gone to waste – the valuable resources that European Countries bury and burn’,

(9) = Friends of the Earth 03 May 2006 ‘'Green' incineration claims misleading’,

(10) = Greenpeace (2001) ‘How to comply with the landfill directive without incineration’,

(11) = Greenpeace ‘Getting to Zero Waste’,

(12) = US Environmental Protection Agency 2009 ‘Opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through materials and land management practices’,

(13) = Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives ‘Solutions’,

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