Greenpeace coalition calls for UK ban on waste incineration

Houses of Parliament

As part of Earth Day demonstrations, campaigners will hand a 10-point action plan for phasing out waste incineration and accelerating the transition towards a circular economy to UK government.

The action plan, outlined in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is signed by Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) and XR Zero Waste. The coalition is asking the PM to work with all government departments to bring about a series of policy changes, including an “immediate moratorium to prevent any new incineration schemes”.

The plan states that incinerators are “imposed on communities against their will, harming their air quality without their consent” and that these plants “are more likely to be built in poorer areas and in areas with higher racial and ethnic diversity”.

It also calls on government to enhance efforts to monitor and reduce pollution from incineration, including through unannounced inspections, more frequent monitoring of dioxins, stricter emissions limits and increased funding for enforcement.

The government needs to respond to the climate emergency by taking action right now.

The letter calls on the government to halt the incineration and export of waste plastic through “radical reduction” of plastic at source. It also argues for the immediate inclusion of incineration in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme and the introduction of an incineration tax, which incentivises recycling and “waste minimisation”.

The action plan also asks the government to ban the import of refuse-derived fuels (RDF) and solid recovered fuels (SRF) from outside the UK.

Commenting on the letter, National Coordinator of UKWIN, Shlomo Dowen, said: “The government needs to respond to the climate emergency by taking action right now, as there is no future in burning our way out of overconsumption.

“The UK is already suffering from too many waste incinerators releasing CO2 that is worsening climate change and pollutants that are harming our air quality.

“Preventing the construction and operation of even more incinerators is not a big ask. It is the very least the government can do to help us along the journey to zero waste and the circular economy.”

Views on the call for waste incineration ban

Energy from waste

Lee Marshall, Policy and External Affairs Director, CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management), commented: “CIWM understands the desire to speed up the transition to a circular economy, and this is something the Institution itself is working hard to achieve. Much like we have moved away from landfilling, we will, in time, reuse, repair and recycle more resources.

“This will ultimately reduce our need for Energy from Waste (EfW) but, at the moment, these plants play an important role in managing resources and this capacity is needed. EfW plants provide electricity, and many provide heat or are heat ready, so they are also key to maintaining the UK’s energy security.

The standards that current EfW plants operate to are high and are heavily monitored.

“The standards that current EfW plants operate to are high and are heavily monitored, so we need to move away from the outdated notion that they are harmful to air quality.

“We welcome the inclusion of EfW plants in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, as this will accelerate the decarbonisation of EfW. The profession will continue to enhance and improve the infrastructure that is used so we can realise a circular economy and move the world beyond waste.”

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