A report published by the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) that looks into the climate change impacts of waste incineration in the UK has been labelled as “deeply flawed”, according to energy recovery company, Cory Riverside Energy.
The report claims that in 2017 the UK’s 42 incinerators released a combined total of nearly 11m tonnes of CO2. It says around 5m tonnes of this CO2 was emitted through the incineration of fossil-based materials such as plastic.
The 5m tonnes of fossil CO2 that it says was released by UK incinerators in 2017 is estimated to have resulted in an “unpaid cost to society” of around £325 million, the Network says.
Josh Dowen, Associate Coordinator of UKWIN – “The climate change impacts of incineration are worse than landfill. Most of what is incinerated could and should be recycled or composted.”
UKWIN predicts that over the next 30 years the total “cost to society” of fossil CO2 released by UK’s current incinerators equates to more than £25bn of harm arising from the release of around 205m tonnes of fossil CO2.
Josh Dowen, Associate Coordinator of UKWIN, says: “The study shows waste is a rubbish feedstock for generating energy. Burning large quantities of plastics gives rise to a small amount of electricity that comes with a high climate cost.
“To add insult to injury, those profiting from waste incineration are not paying for the huge cost to society of emitting all these greenhouse gases, and so a UK-wide waste incineration tax is long overdue”.
Dowen continued: “The climate change impacts of incineration are worse than landfill. Most of what is incinerated could and should be recycled or composted. It is time to stop thinking of waste as potential incinerator feedstock and time to recognise the urgent need to reduce, re-use and recycle”.
“Frustrating & Highly Concerning”
Nicholas Pollard, Group CEO, Cory Riverside Energy, however, says the UKWIN report is “both frustrating and highly concerning”.
He says it risks diverting the attention of policy-makers away from the “looming crisis” of how to process the millions of tonnes of waste the UK produces every year that cannot be recycled.
Nicholas Pollard, Group CEO, Cory Riverside Energy – “The issue is not whether or not burning refuse to generate electricity is more carbon intensive than solar or wind power (it clearly is) but whether creating energy from waste is better than landfill operations”
He said: “The issue is not whether or not burning refuse to generate electricity is more carbon intensive than solar or wind power (it clearly is) but whether creating energy from waste is better than landfill operations, with their associated issues of leachate, unconstrained corrosive gas emissions to atmosphere, and water course pollution – to name a few.”
He said Cory agrees waste must be minimised and recycled as much as possible but says for UKWIN to imply that landfill is a preferable solution to EfW is “incredibly irresponsible” and in direct contradiction of the Government’s own legally-established waste hierarchy.
Cory produced a short document that outlines its arguments against the report, namely that the argument that landfill is a preferable alternative to EfW is not backed by what it calls “credible data”; that landfill produces “significantly more CO2 than EfW”; and that the report overlooks methane and other pollutants derived from landfill that “significantly damage the environment”.
“We stand ready to have this conversation with all policy-makers and the public alike,” Pollard said.