Incineration: It’s not good for councils, electors or tax payers.

Filed in Blog by on April 6, 2011 8 Comments
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Is incineration the answer to dealing with rubbish and waste?

Is incineration the answer to dealing with rubbish and waste?

A while ago on BBC’s ‘inside out’, Mary Rhodes investigated the council millions wasted on a failed strategy to build new incinerators.

Dr Dan Coffey, a business economics expert opened the programme by saying “It’s not good for the councils, it’s not good for the electors, it’s not good for the tax payers.
It’s good for the company, but it’s not good for the public.”

Wow, get straight to the point why don’t you!

Increased Recycling

The programme focused on the fact that the Government is demanding councils step up their recycling rates yet massive incinerators costing millions of pounds are still being built. Inside Out wanted to investigate why councils would want to burn rubbish at a time when the focus is supposed to be on recycling.

Saving money

Recently seven incinerator plans across the country have been scrapped. Only last month  Coventry council threw out plans to build a massive incinerator in favour of recycling more and reducing waste. One of their councillors is convinced this decision will help to SAVE money – he wants to look at the zero waste option and would like to reduce waste at source.

Maybe one solution to getting rid of rubbish is to burn it but according to experts, it’s simply burning tax payers money…

Throw away society

It’s clear we’ve become a throw away society and after years of not having to worry about it, waste disposal has now become a part of our lives in ways we never could have imaged 60 years ago.

While Coventry have scrapped plans in favour of increasing recycling, Shropshire council is trying to press ahead to build their incinerator. It will cost tax payers over £100 million and tie them in for 25 years, yet the council is certain it’s needed. Shropshire want one because they predict the amount sent to landfill will increase over the coming years. However, in order to feed the incinerator they want to build they will need MORE waste than they are currently sending to landfill! And if they don’t burn enough, they’ll have to pay for it any way. In a recent case, Stoke council were fined £645,000 by its contractor for not burning enough waste.

Future of waste

Everyone else the programme spoke to felt that the amount of waste we create will go DOWN in the future, not up. They pointed out that Shropshire’s plans were drawn up three years ago when we were recycling less and when Government had imposed big housing targets. However, despite the Govt scrapping those targets, despite the recession and despite all the spending cuts the council insists there will be more houses, more businesses and that means more rubbish.


Dr Margaret Bates, a ‘waste expert’ thinks we are going through a cultural change in how we think about waste. We’re asking more questions and as consumers, we want more renewable materials to be used so she feels waste will reduce, recycling will increase and there is no need for large incinerators.

Unfortunately the programme is no longer available on IPlayer, but I’d love to know what you think about councils spending millions on incineration. Is it the answer to our waste problem or is there a better way?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (8)

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  1. stephen says:

    mrs g the link to the story is here:

  2. Mrs Green says:

    @stephen: fantastic – thanks for the link, Stephen 🙂

  3. Stephen says:

    These links are the governments main sites on waste management for 2010 onward which I think look pretty good and I agree with most of what they say, but when you look at what they are actually doing now it is completely different, we have in the UK at the moment 35 large incinerators not including the cement incinerators etc, they are proposing to build another 83 at lease in the next 5 years, we produced  in 2005, 434M tonnes of waste a year overall,
    Household= 9%
    Industrial= 13%
    Mining /quarrying =29%
    sewage sludge=1%
    Dredged Materials=5%
    Dr Margaret bates Owen figures,
    We are recycling 38% of the HOUSEHOLD waste ,in 2000 it was just 5% so why do we need more incinerators? What we need this more recycling for industry /construction etc etc, and household waste as well
    so why are the households paying for all this waste that we produce when the consumers are only 8% of the total waste in the UK “the tip of the iceberg,” and the construction industry are the main culprits, and need to recycle! There seems to be a lot of fly tipping by them? if these incinerators go ahead the government will import 400M !tonnes of waste from Europe and the rest of the world Looking at government papers ?,that they won’t burn because of their Owen people don’t want it on their door step! Someone is making a lot of money out of it?Just think of all the ships transporting the stuff!,    Just so we can produce power from waste! Because the government as not looked ahead, to see what they are going to do about that problem also, it is going to affect recycling in a negative way, and  after all people want to recycle if they can, but the governments idea of recycling are lots of waste to energy plants that we will not be able to do anything about when there are built eg: 27year contracts etc, I don’t think the people in power have any intrest in normal people of this land but only large businesses that make colossal profits,etc etc by the look of it….” why don’t they just do what they say in the end?…”                       

  4. Joe Davis says:

    I think it is interesting that there is any thought of constructing incinerators when it is already known how much pollution they cause. With the advances made in plasma gasification one is capable of recycling their rubbish and what was once a looming threat becomes a public resource. Along with that I have no understanding why tax payers would give a loan that would not be paid back to them as opposed to some third party contractor. Another interesting concept I still do not understand is why businesses are in control of public infrastructure anyways.
    Waste storage still generates methane gases while it rots. Land fills overflow, and third world countries have been used as dumping grounds by industrialized nations for a while now. If they can use plasma gasification to generate electricity, produce syngas, glass, construction materials, distilled water, and various other resources I am confused why they are not, and why they would think of constructing incinerators instead. I am also confused why the new power, recycling plant, would not be publicly owned, controlled, ran, and used to fill the public coffers as opposed to businesses. The power could be sold to the grid to offset expenditures from public power usage such as schools and such.
    I agree that we should recycle as much as possible. If the information that is available on plasma gasification is accurate than I don’t see why it would not be a viable recycling method. Place a man made pond filled with algae that consumes the CO2, could benifit from the distilled water, and once we master the technology, could be used for biodiesel. Focus on landfill management, and recycling.
    Further resources can be found at under waste to energy and biomass. Including the mentioned you tube video.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Joe Davis: Thanks for the thought provoking comment Joe and for sharing the link; that site looks interesting but one for browsing when there is lots of time… 🙂

  6. Jane says:

    Strange press about the incinerator won at appeal in Cornwall.

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