Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Incinerators recycle nothing, cause cancers and birth defects, lose more energy than they produce and waste valuable resources

The Scotgen company claim their planned incinerator at Dovesdale farm in South Lanarkshire will create “green energy” by “recycling” waste (1) – (2). This is part of a UK and worldwide attempt at rebranding incinerators. In fact incinerators recycle nothing, produce less energy than will be required to replace the products they incinerate instead of recycling – and emit many toxins which cause cancers (especially in children) and birth defects in babies.

They incinerate plastics in household waste. Plastics are petroleum products – i.e made from oil  - a finite resource which while run out (and become hugely expensive long before then). So it’s madness to burn them rather than recycle what we won’t be able to replace in the long run. Any energy generated is much less than that required to produce new plastic containers to replace those incinerated – a net energy loss  (3) – (4).

Incinerating plastics also releases carcinogenic toxins such as dioxins, heavy metal particulates and nitrogen oxide for at least 14 miles on the wind. These can be inhaled, causing cancers , especially in children - and birth defects in babies; and can contaminate farmland and water, going into the food chain. Scotgen also incinerate industrial toxic waste, which is even more hazardous. While some of the emissions are caught by filters in incinerator chimney stacks or flues, significant amounts are not – and these are the biggest hazard (5) – (12).

One of many babies born with birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq, thought to be linked to depleted uranium shells, white phosphorus and other chemical weapons employed by Coalition Forces there in the assaults on the city in 2004. Toxins emitted by incinerators can cause similar deformities in babies

Scotgen made the same claims it’s making for Dovesdale for their existing plant at Dumfries which has never generated a single watt of electricity over a year after it opened;  and exceeded it’s emissions limits (including on dioxins and nitrogen oxide) at least 52 times in it’s first 7 months (13) – (15).

The ‘waste to energy’ claims are just a rebranding of incinerators to make them sound green. In fact they are a dangerous, expensive, short-sighted, quick fix for the landfill problem; which may lead to many deaths. Any short term savings compared to recycling are massively offset by the long term costs in overall energy loss to the country, destruction of plastics which won’t be able to be replaced when oil runs out – and will become increasingly expensive long before it runs out entirely – and in illnesses and deaths caused.

Experts on incineration and waste management like Dr Dick Van Steenis, Dr. Paul Connett, Greenpeace and the US Environmental Protection Agency say superior alternatives exist – recycling, legal limits on the amount and type of materials used in making products and packaging; and making producers of products pay for recycling them and their packaging; plus anaerobic digestion of organic waste (16) – (23).

Dr. Dick Van Steenis - an expert on air pollution's effects on health, one of many to condemn incinerators as unsafe and unnecessary

Recycling would also reduce CO2 emissions massively compared to incineration, reducing the climate change problem posed by incinerators (24) – (25). Existing incinerator projects also show taxpayers’ money spent on incinerators is taken out of councils’ recycling budget.

Any politician or company telling you incineration is a better solution for the landfill (or waste managagement) problem than recycling is selling you a short-term quick fix, on the calculation that they’ll have retired by the time all the longer term costs have to be paid; and that they can attribute cancers, birth defects and other illnesses to other or unknown causes.

South Lanarkshire Council’s planning committee ignored around 20,000 objections against Scotgen’s planned Dovesdale Incinerator to approve it by 14 votes to 9. Every Labour councillor on the committee voted for the incinerator. Every SNP councillor on it voted against. (See below for list of councillors voting for and against, their party affiliations and links to contact details for them).

SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) still has to grant Scotgen a licence to run the plant before Scotgen can begin operations. If you want to find out more about the Incinerator and the campaign against it see the Action Group against Dovesdale Incinerator’s website here. There’s a facebook group against the incinerator here

Councillors voting for the incinerator

Jackie Burns (Labour);Pam Clearie (Labour); James Docherty (Labour) ; Edward Mcavoy (Labour) ;Alex Mcinnes (Labour)  Dennis Mckenna (Labour) ;  Mary Mcneil (Labour) ; Graham Scott (Labour) ; Hamish Stewart (Conservative) ; Chris Thompson (Labour) ; Jim Handibode (Labour) ; Hugh Dunsmuir (Labour) ;  Eileen Baxendale (Liberal Democrat) ;  Alex Allison (Conservative)

Councillors voting against the incinerator

Archie Buchanan (SNP) against. Tommy Gilligan (Independent – no party) against.   Ian Gray (SNP) against. Bill Holman (SNP) against. Jim Wardhaugh (SNP) ; Archie Manson (SNP) ; Claire Mcoll (SNP) ; Lesley Mcdonald (SNP)

Councillors on the planning committee but not present on the day of the vote

Patrick Ross-Taylor (Conservative)   Gerry Convery (Labour)

Source notes

 (1) = Carluke Gazette 10 Feb 2011 ‘No peace at Dovesdale’

(2) = Hamilton Advertiser 29 Jul 2010 ‘Scotgen state case for ‘green energy’ waste plant at Dovesdale Farm’,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) = 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.)

(11) = Health Protection Scotland (2009) ‘Incineration of Waste and Reported Human Health Effects’,

(12) = Evening Times 28 Jul 2010 ‘Waste incinerator company in emission safety breaches’, ; ‘The firm wants to spend £50 million on an incinerator that would burn household and industrial waste …It would also handle “hazardous” materials’

(13) =

(14) =  Hamilton Advertiser 14 Oct 2010 ‘Scotgen facility at Dumfries still to produce electricity – more than a year after opening’

(15) = Evening Times 28 Jul 2010 ‘Waste incinerator company in emission safety breaches’, ; article says emission breaches included above acceptable levels of nitrogen oxide

(16) = ‘Zero Waste : A Key Move towards an industrial society’ by Paul Connett PhD,

(17) = Yorkshire Post 13 Oct 2010 ‘Incinerator rapped as 19th century’,

(18) = This is Gloucestershire 19 May 2010 ‘Professor Paul Connett wades into the Gloucestershire incinerator debate’,

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

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

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

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

(23) = ' Incinerator Deaths ' by Dr. Dick Van Steenis,

(24) = See (3) above

(25) = See (4) above

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