Against incineration

Filed in by on August 15, 2008 72 Comments

against incinerationWhy waste incineration is wrong

Waste incineration is like controlling the population through euthanasia before birth control. It’s wrong because it’s trying to control the problem, before preventing the cause. Most wise people recognise that prevention is better than cure, so how can waste incineration be a viable option?

If we look deeper into the problem of production and consumer waste, we see that its a monster that has got out of control. We are producing so much and so fast, that slowing it down and reducing waste is not enough. We also need to get rid of it more efficiently and stop contaminating the environment by burying rubbish in the ground. Incineration answers the problem of reducing the bulk of waste by 95-96 %, depending upon composition and degree of recovery of materials. Incineration is therefore at a superficial level, a viable solution.

The argument for incineration focusses on providing an immediate solution to reducing landfill waste burial and mitigates the toxic after effect by pointing to possible solutions for unwanted bi-products, such as reprocessing of leachate and gas scrubbing. The cost of post treatment like this is high and its effectiveness is uncertain for technical reasons. Some medical waste is in fact very suitable for incineration as the high temperatures reached are sufficient to sterilise the waste and remove the biological hazard. In addition, some incineration processes may be linked to power production by utilising the heat generated. Overall, there is undoubtedly a niche market for incineration, but not as a panacea to mass waste reduction.

Unfortunately, waste incineration comes with its own environmental problems, as well as technical issues and dubious cost effectiveness.  Incinerators produce greenhouse gases like CO2, and also heavy metals, particulates, sulphur dioxide, acids, furan and dioxins. Although incineration may reduce the bulk of waste, by burning it away, the toxic by-products produced are no longer bound to stable materials and maybe freely released into the environment as gasses and leachate. Waste mass is reduced, but at a high cost of greater environmental pollution. The wider goal of reducing toxic contamination and sustaining environmental systems is ultimately defeated through incineration.

Taking a wider view of post consumer and post industrial waste reveals that the real root of the problem lies much further back and begins with the production of waste, as opposed to its disposal. That may seem obvious, but if so, why are we even contemplating the use of incinerators? Why don’t we grasp the nettle of responsibility and prevent the problem and stop taking reactive measures of dealing with the monster after it has escaped? If we project the waste problem into future generations, it’s clear that incineration can only be a temporary measure, or reserved for specialist waste disposal needs.

If the real issue is rooted in waste production, then the most effective prevention is to centre our resources on providing creative and legislative methods to reduce waste in the first place. This is the only route that will achieve sustainable waste reduction without incurring too many tricky caveats at the end of use. The counter argument against this approach suggests that while this maybe an ideal solution, it will take too much time to implement and we need an immediate relief to landfill waste. Many UK regions calculate that we have only a few years left of available landfill space and that we are already at a critical stage in dealing with waste disposal. This  observation makes incineration attractive as a necessary evil that maybe inevitable, at least as a short term option.

It is true that it takes a long time to stop a moving freight train and that in order to avoid disaster it is tempting to divert it’s route rather than apply the brakes. The easy option is not always the best one and usually only offers short term solutions. We do have to take immediate action, but incineration is an easy diversion that leads later us up a siding with nowhere to go. The answer is to make large and immediate investment into prevention and not cure. This way ahead is not unusual and has already been adopted by other countries like New Zealand and parts of Canada. They have turned the prevention of waste and residual recycling into a business opportunity, seeing waste that can’t be factored out of manufacturing as resource material for new production. Not only good for the environment, but also good for industry. This ‘closed loop’ approach regards waste as the result of a failure to realise a reuse possibility for any materials. If something can not be reused, it becomes more costly because it has no residual post production or post consumer recycling value.

No producer wants to raise costs and if they can recover materials for reuse this is an incentive for cleaner greener production methods. To make such systems work there needs to be organised and effective recovery systems, both in manufacturing and also post consumer recycling. These are the areas that we must focus on here in the United Kingdom to initiate a sea-change of attitudes both in industry, marketing and consumer habits.

Where do we go with this? The goal of is to demonstrate that with a change in attitude and a small amount of commitment, an ordinary family can achieve a huge reduction in landfill waste in excess of 80% without much effort. This can be done with virtually no cost or outlay and relies solely on a ‘will’ to shop carefully, recycle responsibly and see waste as a resource. Our small model demonstrates a paradigm for change that is both easy to realise and accessible by ordinary people. If this model was proliferated across our region and country, we would see a reduction in landfill waste that would leave every other method almost redundant. We have gone from about 100 ltrs of weekly waste to an average of 150grams of waste, that is only due to lack of mixed plastics recycling facilities in our area. We joke that if everyone else produced as little waste as us, our village would only need a small transit van for landfill kerbside collection. Our waste bin has 6 weeks of unrecycleble plastic in it and it’s only half full. The main changes for us have been in an attitude of mindfulness and very little has changed to threaten our consumer enjoyment or lifestyle.

It can be argued that what we have demonstrated is a new skill, a new cultural shift that is required for a new generation facing new environmental problems. We still eat well, enjoy a little moderate spending and note only a small ‘down-shifting’ as a result of our recycling habits. The fact is that a small effort to prevent waste by an individual or family unit multiplied across a large area has a much greater effect than the reactive efforts to deal with waste once it’s produced. Surely that is a valuable key to revealing the way forward.

We advocate a ‘Greater awareness campaign’  as the primary thrust for waste reduction. The individual holds the key, whether that is a head of industry, politician, ordinary individual, or family household. Reach the individual on a mass scale and a vast change can be achieved with a self governing approach that removes the need for legislation or draconian measures. Even with limitations with kerbside collections and problems with mixed plastics recycling we have shown that huge reductions in landfill waste are possible, simply by  adopting new habits and utilising the resources available.

Zero landfill waste is a distinct possibility, 75% – 90% reduction is a certainty, given  an acceptance and commitment from the individual. Have our decision makers become too detached from the people that they can’t reach them. Or is that that local government is too occupied with popularity and vote securing? Maybe we see that waste freight train thundering along the tracks and think it’s simply too big and too fast to put the brakes on and that the only option left is to limit the damage and incinerate the evidence of our environmental crash.

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  1. Mr Green says:

    Good reference site against incineration. Information, articles local groups and up to date news. ukwin Including map showing all proposed and existing incinerationsites in the UK

  2. Hi Mr Green,

    Is Gloucestershire the only council trying to work out an alternative strategy? My council, Renfrewshire, did not even mention recycling/composting in its yearly circular to the public. That is worrying. It could mean a silent acceptance of incineration.

    What is your view on local council attitudes?

  3. Thanks MR G – Excellent and interesting article. Waste reduction has to be the way forward. It just make so much sense.

  4. Mr Green says:

    The Bishops Cleeve hazardous landfill site in Gloucestershire takes fly ash from many incinerators and the possibility of an incinerator is within the GCCs outline plan, as seen in the ‘Outline business case for application for private finance initiative credits’ section 4.4.5 (link ) As I said in the article the temptation for utilising incineration is significant alongside the possibility of generating heat and power from the process.

    Of course, once you employ a system like this you need to keep it fed with waste to keep it going and justify its exixtence. Not a good incentive to reduce waste, is it. If there was a significant reduction in waste due to other efforts once the incinerator is commissioned, there would be some seriously red faces around.

    The political heat from from anti-incineration campaigns can get pretty exhausting and ugly. It is our intention not to engage heavily in what is wrong, but to demonstrate what is the right way to proceed. We want to present a positive alternative and focus our energy showing a way forward to avoid incineration. By solving the problem at source through a significant reduction in waste from households and business, we effectively ‘starve’ the fuel required to justify and run these machines.

    The challenge with this strategy is reaching a significant population to make a difference in waste reduction. However, We firmly believe that if the £m cost of incineration was diverted to sustainable preventions and not superficial cures, there would be a much greater chance of success.

    Everyone says ‘Not in my back yard’ to incineration and somehow we need to get the message across that they are the author of their own fate, unless they do something personally to stop the relentless accumulation of waste that justifies radical methods of disposal.

    We need to promote better public awareness of waste reduction. We need to provide a stark picture of the alternatives if we fail to reduce waste. We need better facilities for waste collection, sorting and recycling and we need real legislation from goverments to provide better, greener manufacturing processes in goods packaging.

  5. Hi Mr Green,

    You have covered the area well. The point now is how can we all promote better practices? The September pledges topic, though it is probably a local event mainly, could be a way to broaden the numbers involved. Mentioning the pledges on Chris’s blog, alongwith the resulting discussion, could encourage a greater response. I have already commented on waste-free options and this would an expansion of that idea.
    What do you think our best course is?

  6. Mr Green says:

    What you say here John is raising the visibility of these issues. Unfortunately there is still tacit response from so many people to waste reduction. Once our waste is ‘outa sight, it’s outa mind’ We have a choice; do we have an soft evolution now or a waste revolution in 10 or 20 years? People respond slowly but react quickly. So often we need a critical event moment to initiate real change. But all this suggests a ‘stick’ of fear and not the ‘carrot’ of incentive.

    I Think Mrs’ G will mention our competition on Chris’ blog and I hope this my help to raise visibility. Ultimately we need a much greater proliferation of the whole subject. We are working on this …

  7. Hi Mr Green,

    On Chris’s blog AdeJones mentions incineration, by another name. I have tried to pin him down with a discussion but so far he has not replied.

  8. Hi Mr Green,

    Annie Leonard is leading a campaign against incineration, Zero Waste for Zero Warmth. At present, chasing events in the Third World. Indonesia is the latest example. It is obviously a worldwide issue.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    John, Annie Leonard’s video, The Story Of Stuff is a wonderful film isn’t it? People rave about it and it’s so well presented.
    She is a fabulous woman who is doing so much to bring awareness to this issue. It’s really taken off as I see it mentioned in all sorts of places. She brings so much sense to a nonsensical issue and just puts it right where it’s at.

    A woman who gets my vote for all the important work she is going. She’s really helping to change the world with her mission.

  10. Hi Mrs Green,

    The incineration issue is broadly discussed on Chris’s blog. The best technology seems to be gasification and pyrolysis. EfW is the “favourite” of many, including councils, plastic packaging industry and waste management industy. The worry must be that the rush to make this the standard practice will bring hazard to the environment. Zero Waste is one way to minimise the amount going to such “burn” technology and is therefore on the side of anti-incineration.

  11. Mrs Green says:

    My concern with incineration is that the recycling we do in this country will stop altogether. These beasts need a lot of food to keep them going, and no company is going to invest millions of pounds in an incinerator to see it unused.

  12. Hi Mrs Green,

    The 25 year lifecycle allows the chain of waste process to continue unchallenged while providing large amounts of burnable waste. There is therefore a business link with other interested parties giving the nod.

    As our trend reduces waste, we are a potential spanner in the works, along with anti-incinerator groups and green groups. Zero Waste really is a blow for sustainability and I am sure people will see our ideas as one way to oppose these 2 undesirable outcomes.

  13. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    I agree that incinerator isn’t the answer coming from a practical environmentalist position rather than a romantic environmentalist position.

    I agree reduce, reuse, recycling should be nationally be pushed from 30% now, through the legal 50% to 70-75%. 50% in the EU WFD is very unambitous. This makes economic sense.

    I agree food waste needs to be collected separately and composted by organised local IVC or CHP via Anerobic Digestion technology, back to farmland. Again, this makes economic sense.

    I disagree that a non technology solution is realistic for the last 25-30% of mixed or difficult waste. AMBT and resource recovery technology is the friendiest solution.(FoE,Greenpeace)

    Small scale local Gasplasma or plasma gasification is the best technology for hospital waste, composite products, historic latent materials, difficult residual, but we are talking about the last 10-15% of material for hydrogen syngas conversion/CHP 2xRoCs, where plasma technology has very good emissions, CO2 footprint (Eunomia), 65% net energy efficiency, safe plasmarok,1% of input to landfill. This should be a goalkeeper solution not a striker or front 10 solution as Defra/AC are pushing incineration guised as EfW/CHP.

    Redesign of products or designing out residual waste is a long term transitional project in cconjection with producters and resource handlers. Real initiatives should be pushed with product design, however, it should not be regarded as a serious short-medium term romantic silver bullet or indeed mantra.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Ok Rob, I can safely say you totally lost me with that 5th paragraph of yours LOL!
    Perhaps you should write a guest article for us sometime and explain things to us 😉

  15. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Hi Mrs Green

    Searching Advanced Plasma Power or

    probably explains the plasma cracking process quite well.

    A good discussion point in this section, in a limited difficult waste (listed) role.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    THank you for the link, Rob – I’ll take a look at that when my brain is less frazzled 😀

  17. Rik Boland says:

    I agree that we should not incinerate waste and the we can reduce landfill but say in an ideal world we still have 20% waste then what do you suggest, mechanical biological treatment or some thing else?


  18. Mr Green says:

    Rik Boland: All waste is the bi-product of bad design. Having said that, it’s ineveitable that we as a species will continue producing some waste, as we have gone too far down the ‘synthetic’ route to turn back easily. Here’s another thought; All waste can be recoverd and reused usefully somehow, but economics will determine the viability of that in the real world. There is also no intrinsic problem with turning waste into energy, providing there is no harmful effect to the environment as a result, or political incentives. I think gas plasma converters and bio digesters are a viable possibility on a small scale to deal with waste that is bio-hazardous, or to recover useful energy that is still avaiable.

    The idea of mass incineration as a panacea of waste treatment is completely wrong as it undermines the effort of waste prevention and seeking ways to design better environmentally friendly packaging.

    Imagine this scenario; a multi-million pound incinerator is installed and over time waste management improves to a point where this incinerator becomes redundant. A lot of red faces around eh! To make sure that never happens there is an implied ‘relaxation’ of efforts to reduce waste. After all, these plants need waste as fuel to justify their existence and that is part of the error in the concept of incineration.

  19. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Mr Green; Limited modularised AD digesters; CHP plasma gas converters, until transitional better design kicks in; I agree! This is where I am pragmatically at the mo. Many at the Omega Institute in Brighton were of the same direction.

    Mass EfW/CHP incineration isn’t acceptable! It undermines everything without thought or benefit.

  20. John Costigane says:

    @Rob Whittle,Nail2: There were problems with Gas Plasma devices in the US. I think it was down to flue gases, but not certain on that.

  21. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Its not an area to raise too much concern IMO. Burning biomass, biogas or natural gas boilers might have far worse emissions by comparison. The main issue is that they are used specifically as limited goalkeeper tool that looks at the last 10% of materials/composite/difficult plastic products that are currently poorly designed for recycling. Putting 40-50% of waste (food/recycleable materials) into plasma gasifers is going to be poor practice.

    Its an interesting area to research. More areas have been snagged out to proven status. Looking at the plasma gasification emissions readouts they are 1/10th the amounts of the EU/US regulation levels for fine and ultra fine particle and 1/1000th dioxin levels. Thats far exceeding of what the best modern EfW incinerator can manage, or any other advanced thermal process. The reactions are thermal dissocciation(reduction) rather than combustion (oxidation)that create dioxins. Emissions of Biomass and Domestic Condensing Gas Boilers are higher in trace metals and ultra fine particles than any levels from plasma polished syngas, so levels need to placed in context. So gas engines have a 10ft chimney. 0.5%-1% cleaning residue.

    Gas plasma is a unique process to the UK only patented by a company APP, which involves front end gasification followed by syngas polishing with plasma torches which acheives the same emmisions as plasma gasification. APP wish to use the 40% Hydrogen portion for car fuel cells, so the gas needs o be very clean. The carbon monoxide portion can also be used as a base for ethanol production.

  22. John Costigane says:

    I would like it to work, of course. But after reading US articles all complaining about the technology, I wondered what the problem was. Maybe it was a NIMBY reaction to the structure itself.

  23. Mr Green says:

    The presentation material for AGP plants is indeed impressive and I suspect one of the most viable technologies yet for clean emmissions. These plants are complex multi-stage processors that will undoutedly be expensive. As always, economic restriants tend to sway decissions and I can forsee these plants being used more for private initiatives and not becoming the main thrust of government recommendations. It would be interesting to compare costings/efficiency/returns with more conventional incineration EfW plants to see how viable this could be economically. Environmentally, they appear to be better, but is that enough to clinch the deal? I also suspect most peopel are suspicious of any new technology, especially one that potentially encroaches in safety areas. Put simply, if one of these plants went critical, the projected human and environmental impact could be extensive.

  24. John Costigane says:

    Peter Jones was misquoted recently in the media. The “Recycling is a waste of time” quote there was in relation to a Global Warming comment. This was a bombshell to our way of thinking. The truth however was that Peter was refering to transport of materials, usually by truck. With regard to this, rolling stock was proposed for 1 installation. That is the connection to the bad publicity.

    I apologise to Peter for reacting to a misrepresentation of the facts. In future, such quotes will be investigated thoroughly before commenting. We are all on the same side aiming for a better future.

  25. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Mr Green, I tend to agree with much of the tone you set. Gasplasma has a limited place, AD an even bigger place, and recycling a massive place. Gasplasma is the goalkeeper technology of last and limited resort after precycling, recyling, composting, digesting, material recovery; and should be respected as such. Its unsuited to food waste, pure/mixed. Currently it cost £32-40/tonne to plasma treat waste/RDF which is cheaper than EwF/CHPincineration at £55-80/tonne; same as MBT/AD at £40/tonne; AD of pure food waste is currently 30-35/tonne.

    But recycling always wins with only mixed paper/ brown card currently costing £0-20 /tonne to shift; all other material generating positive revenue/profit £0-450/tonne.

    The Daily Telegraph started with an editorial anti recycling agenda/story, than misquoted and used Peter Jones wronly as quote fodder. This hugely angered Peter who wrote a terse letter reply to the telerag. Anyone who knows Peter, know he’s very pro recycling via Biffa and anti-incinerator, running Defras New Tech Demo Programme with AGP decentralised facility direction.

  26. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Found a relevant chip that explains the Gasplasma process/size fairly well.

    One arguement is companies like Veolia/Viridor are lining up 30 or more large scale 150,000-850,000Tpa centralised incinerators, where other than specific cases and incinerator defeats like WRG in Norfolk, Sita now at Capel, delays in Cornwall and Hull; other incinerator proprosals seem to be bulldozing their way through opposition, especially where comprehensive recycling/zw is the only alternative in the locker. Most Waste Disposal Authorities rigidly project 50% of total waste (too much IMO) to be treated by residual technologies, 1.1% increases factored in, technology neutral pick n mix procurements (including EwF incinerators bids put forward by big 5 Veolia ES, Viridor, FCC/WRG, Suez/Sita, Covanta pushing out (cuckoo style)better MBT/AD or ATT technology bids at preferred bidder stage. European law states companies have to use Best Available Technology BAT, and with the maturing BAT and bankability credentials of gasplasma/plasma gasification systems; future incinerator oppositional challenges could be made with regards to BAT,fine particle emissions quality, net CO2, energy inefficencies, IBA/fly ash vehicle movements.

  27. Mr Green says:

    Thanks Rob for your summary of available technology and costs. What becomes clearer as we look deeper into the situation is that politics and profits play a predicatbly corrupt role as a driver for supremacy. The argumnent goes that BAT has already been secured and demonstrated in incinerators and that decissions need to be made now and not later when and if a better method comes online. AGP plants still need proving on large scale systems. When I was a commissioning engineer for large scale water treament plants (£1b+)I saw more than a few cases where BAT was sacrificed in favour of political persuasions. Inferior technology often carries a bigger stick (money talks louder) than common sense.

  28. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Mr Green
    I think your last two comments hit the nail on the head that banks and politicans aren’t necessarily “banking” on EfW incineration to solve landfil/residual; they are banking and appeasing on the clout of the big 5-6 waste companies to solve landfill, and will largely go along with the proven technology decisions made by the boards of those corporation. As long as its in the Energy recovery Pic n Mix. So a bizarre and warped EfW incinerator bias and difficult to stop technology dynamic is set in motion. Bit link the RAF using crud stringbag fighters as the start of WWII, when spitfires were available; or the navy WWI dreadnoughts when aircraft carriers were the to revolutionise seapower.

    With regards to plasma gasification processes two factors of scaleability and provenness are becoming a lesser issue, as was highlighted in Juniper Nov 2008 report. Another year will further tilt in favour of plasma BAT technologies, entering the UK/EU market. Scalability also will largely be an issue resolved by modular scale up of 50KTa, 100Tpa and 150KTpa modules.

    So why aren’t big companies like Veolia, Viridor, Covanta, WRG suddenly changing their incinerator technology over to scalable plasma modules, even if plasma technology is BAT, proven for MSW, increasingly bankable and scalable via modularisation, ticks the CHP/2ROCs boxes? God question!!! I suspect it is two-fold:

    1) They have spent masses of cash perfecting filter systems on incinerators with partner incinerator manufacturers and sponsored R &D enegineering universities such as Leeds and Sheffield (Swithenbank et al), need a return on this investment since 2000, and have supplier deals with incinerator manufacturers; with city fund investor cash already invested. Basically they are in too deep to technologically to change course.

    2)The securing of PFI deals in the latest round running for the next 2 years competing for a share of £2bn allocated is a bigger factor than the energy recovery technology used. We will stay with what we have got to secure a lucrative 25-30yr deal thats good for share price, turnover and profit. It doesn’t have to be BAT. Just jump the hurdles and secure the contracts; the weight of the corporate bidding machine and fancy architects will spin and airbrush the plans through. My impression is that incinerator companies will further lobby government and the European Commission to allow formulated efficient CHP incinerators to attract 2RoCs funding that it doesn’t deserve. Backdoor lobbying and muscle to make the Directives fit the chosen corporate technology. As you state money for a dumb inertial idea of large companies speaks more than common sense and vision for new better 2XRocs patented ideas, developed by small to medium size companies.

  29. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    At the end of the day, whilst validly discussing better technology like gasplasma for the last 10-15% of difficult plasyics/composite waste, IMO, its important not to take ones eyes and awareness of precycling and the potential 70-80% that can be technically and materially, if not yet culturally/practically recycled or composted/digested today. But could be!

  30. Silvia says:

    Dear Mr Green,
    I’m writing from Verona, Italy. The Government of Veneto decided to open here, just 3 kms from the town centre, an incinerator. Some citizens and I tried to contact local administrators to talk about this wrong choice. Now, they call us “terrorists” because we want all people to know what waste incinaration really is, we want to talk about dioxin, PM 2.5, toxic ashes, we want to talk about other better choices that we should take… If you ask local administrators about Zero Waste policy… well, they’ll ask you to repeat the question because they don’t know what “Zero Waste” means. Verona is a Human Heritage site, protected by UNESCO… but, thanks to this incinarator, what will the heritage we’ll leave to our children be? Sorry for my English and thanks so much for your blog.


  31. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:


    So you might have heard/listened to Paul Connett, Stefan Montanari and Beppe Grillo? Good men!

    Beppe is my hero!

  32. Silvia says:

    Hello Rob!

    Yes, I’ve being following Beppe Grillo’s Blog after his 1st V-Day on 2007, I must thank him, we had some meetings here in Verona with Paul Connett and Stefano Montanari and some other special people, as Ms Carla Poli or Mr Maurizio Pallante I really started thinking that we can live in a better and fairer way. Unfortunately, here in Italy the government is going in the opposite way, I feel like they’re robbering our future.


  33. Layla says:

    WOW! Thanks for posting the links, Rob!

    Prof Paul Connett, Stefan Montanari and Beppe Grillo do explain it in a great way!!

    I wish I had seen these videos before – and that all Slovenia would have seen them!!

    Silvia – the best way is to go make zero waste yourself, and to tell as many people as you can about all this, and tell them to start going zero waste themselves!!
    If all the world does it – there will be no waste to burn!!
    Also, maybe write to all good famous people of Italy (and worldwide) for support? What does the Pope say?

  34. Mr. Green says:

    @Silvia: Hi Silvia and welcome to our blog from Verona! That city has a special place in our hearts and we have named our daughter after it. Interesting that this name Verona has its roots in the latin Veritas

    “Veritas vos liberabit” The truth will set you free!

    Regarding Incineration of waste: As I see it the issue is not about the truth of incineration, it is now a political battle that is driven by business consortiums that stand to make a huge fortune from selling and running these plants. We are an irritation in their path, a lone voice that distracts them from their purpose and profits.

    If the incineration battle is upon you, I think it may already be to late. The message is clear. we must prevent the problem of waste, not try and solve it when it is upon us

    I think you have a very strong case however, as Verona is a city of great historical and architectural importance. The fallout from particulates and contaminated rain water is likely cause for concern, not only for living organisms, but also the buildings. The authorities will tell you this is not true, but time will tell. Whenever we alter the balance of nature even by a minute degree, it has a ripple effect over time.

    Rest assured you are NOT terrorists, but wise and sensitive custodians of life. I hope your voice is lifted high so as to be heard above the babble of politcs. You have our full support and respect.

  35. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Precycling Rules, mindfulness before Consumption!!

  36. Silvia says:

    @ Layla – Dear Layla, maybe the problem is not what famous people or the Pote say… but what they do or can do about it. Please, have a look what is happening in Chiaiano (near Naples)… The Government has decided that a landfill must be created there, even if there are other ways, even if Chiaiano is really not a good place for a landfill and people there don’t want it, even if Campania is, together with Taranto and Brescia (here thera is the biggest Italian incinaration, the second one, I think, in Europe), the most degraded areas in Italy. Here in Italy, if you say “No, please, there are better ways” you are a dreamer, a terrorist, a comunist and so on… Unbeliavable

    @ Mr Green: I love my city, I love it, even if with all its problems… We already have bad air here… if we say that inciniration would make it worst, they return that, as the air is already not good, what’s the matter with incinaration? Well, they will not receive waste from me and I’ll share zero waste with more and more people. Thanks a lot, really, for your support.

    Con affetto,


  37. Layla says:

    Dear Silvia, we are facing similar troubles in Slovenia – at least you guys are actively fighting against it!!

    Here, many people still believe what officials and newspapers have told them!! (even some reporters don’t question these things!)

    I think that as Europe it would be important to rebel against this together – and it would be good to have high-profile people who can say, ‘Sorry, if this government wants to do this, I’m not going to pay tax’ and will move to another country – or something like that?
    Don’t know, just an idea..
    Like Bono from U2 was able to talk to Mr Bush directly.. & network with politicians for Africa.. and get some results done..

  38. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Looks like an incinerator is probable

    The shortlist is:

    Incinerator – American energy-from-waste Covanta Energy Limited

    Incinerator – German incineration giant MVV Umwelt GmbH

    Incinerator – Waste management company Veolia ES Aurora;

    Incinerator – Taunton-based waste and recycling firm Viridor;

    Incinerator – Northampton-based Waste Recycling Group;

    ?- Spanish waste treatment company Urbaser S.A;

    Incinerator/MBT – Birmingham-based waste management firm Biffa

    Incinerator/MBT- A consortium of London-based waste management firm Cory Environmental Management, energy-from-waste specialists Earth Tech Engineering Limited and Fortum O&M (UK), and Swedish civil engineering company Skanska Construction;

    MBT-??- A consortium called Sustainable Solutions for Gloucestershire (SS4G) – comprised of construction and consultancy Cyril Sweett Investments Limited, Wilshire-based waste and recycling firm Hills Waste Solutions Limited, Bank of Scotland plc, and Surrey-based construction company BAM Nuttall Limited;

    ??? – John Laing Investments Limited, a consortium of London-based John Laing Investments, technology provider Keppel Seghers Belgium, and utilities company United Utilities.

  39. Mrs Green says:

    Thank you Rob (I think!). This is quite different from the information I read, which included:

    “Any waste companies interested in the project were invited to complete a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ), which asked for information on bidders’ technical, financial and legal position.

    It doesn’t ask about the technologies or sites any company might suggest, just about the company itself to make sure they are financially sound and capable of providing what we need.”

    Taken from:

    Mr Green and I have some research to do …

  40. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    All I pass on, from researching the residual waste sector for 5 years is that all the companies I have put incineration before “do not do other technologies”. The only technologies they do are EfW/CHP incineration.

    People have to work out for themselves by common sense , probability and parrallel bad experiences of places like Oxfordshire where the last six shortlists was 6 incinerator companies; one MBT/AD company. The MBT company was ditched with 2 incinerators being preferred currently (Viridor, WRG).

    Cllr Stan is giving the official technology neutral spin blah, blah; but realise the technology dye and choice as already been effectively been decided via the companies shortlisted. Believe me. From now on its not a matter of listening to what locals want, but brainwashing the puplic that EfW/CHP burners are a great safe efficient idea, when the opposite is the truth. Officials will blah blah the pupic past procurement, preferred bidder stage, planning, financial close, permitting, construction; with little recourse to a different solution.

  41. Mrs Green says:

    Do you have any advice for us, Rob? What should we be doing over here in light of recent news?

  42. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:

    Hard early campaigning for MBT/AD or plasma gasification technology.

    Get into the council chamber scrutinizing the bid procurement model as to why a big contract/ is preferring large incinerator companies; rather than local/medium size companies with new better non incinerator technology.

    Get the press on your side following the Norwich Evening News media campaign

    Lobby councillors and get into the Council chamber asking embarassing written questions (your right)every month, different people, so councillors fed up of the incinerator question…see our blogspot…links to councillors

    Attend officer consultations…expose and counter their EfW/CHP cover for incinerator lies and spin. for ideas….contact MPs, attend MP surgery,, e-pettition..aim 10,000 folk

    Create link to UKWIN with logo button

    Invite Dr Van Steenis to a local meeting to expose incinerator fine particle emissions/ health issues.

  43. John Costigane says:

    @Rob Whittle,Nail2: Hi Rob, People can follow these steps to stand against the EfW juggernaut, backed by this government. (Note the recent post on letsrecycle about ROCs for EfW). It is up to locals to organise and contact councillors who oppose the burning option. There does seem to be a recent push for EfW with Belfast in the frame, though the council there are delaying the process.

    Autoclaving is backed in Cardiff where the city baulked at sending fly-ash to sites in England. Do you think this technology is worthwhile? There has been some negative comment.

  44. Rob Whittle,Nail2 says:


    Thanks John

    You raise 3 very important points

    1) EfW/CHP incineration must never be awarded Double “2xRoCs; as they are high carbon emitters, highly net inefficient,19% and 27% respectectively (Eunomia)

    2) Whilst government says its up to local councils to decide technology; where local councils oppose incineration, government ram rods local planning, local democracy, local residents and misinforms local PCT on health consequenes via an EfW OK fed HPA. Belfast

    3) Auclaving isn’t perfect; put OK; and gives/delays a number of option. 1) it part /delays tactles landfill rather than an incineration, volume reducing and recovering a high percentage of glass, organics, aluminium, steel, plastics (not great for plastics)-the rest forming a card/paper fibre with a number of uses (about 20-30% of original weight)
    a) EfW/CHP incineration elsewhere..NOT GOOD
    b) AD digestion for methane EfW/CHP ..Compose like organics CLO back to land as landfill finisher/quarry restorer like EDEN PROJECT site
    c) Fibreboard recycled product +other potential uses
    d) Biomass for plasma converter for CHP /hydrogen syngas…in the future.

    Sterecycle are a strong MHT (Mechanical Heat Treatment) company as it is sometimes called. Orchid and Vosper Thorneycroft (shipbuilders) are other quality proven autoclave/MHT providers

    MHT/autoclaving and plasma module combination are a high efficiency/low carbon footprint that rivals the MBT/AD combination (Eunomia) its OK and flexible /scaleablewith time/outputs..when compared to EfW/CHP.

  45. Mrs Green says:

    @Rob Whittle,Nail2: Thanks Rob; lots of great tips. I’ll see what is going on around here – I know the local FOE have been campaigning and I’ll find out if the Transition Town are doing anything pro-active.

  46. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    The following links are useful

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Please watch the videos, and leave your comments below

  47. Mrs Green says:

    @Rob Whittle, NAIL2: Hi Rob, good to see you again – how are you? I probably won’t get chance to watch these this evening; I’m trying to catch up with comments, but I’ll watch them over the weekend. Thanks for sharing them – were you at the meeting yourself?

  48. Mrs Green says:

    Wow, ok, we just watched them. I thought I’d start with a couple minutes of the first one for now but was totally hooked and have watched all three. The guy is compelling and I couldn’t argue with anything he said! I feel very inspired – thanks for sending these along, Rob; I really appreciate it. They deserve their own thread as this post is a bit old now. I’ll put something up in the next few weeks 🙂

  49. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    Some folk would call Paul Connett as one of the Grandfather of Zero Waste. (search google -videos “Paul Connett”)


    “On the Road to Zero Waste” series have Paul C as its presenter

    I believe Paul is worth a thread of his own (with media clip links), with his US work, Canadian campaigns and famous Italian campaigns, especially Naples last year with ZWIA, search google videos “paul connett italy” usually with a glass of vino rosa to head or Beppe Grillo Meetup.

  50. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    IMO Paul’s “Pieces of Zero” series 8 parts shot and presented internationally are fab/excellent

  51. John Costigane says:

    @Rob Whittle, NAIL2: Paul is a longtime advocate of Zero Waste and the recent links about Coventry brought the idea of Resource Centres to change the production system and eliminate waste from it.

    As enthusiasts, we can achieve a lot, even promoting businesses which have the right approach. Changing the overall system is a far bigger challenge and Paul’s idea looks to address this last stumbling block towards a Zero Waste future. Such ideas need to be discussed and then acted upon as their value becomes apparent to the mainstream.

  52. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks both, I have contacted Paul and asked him to write something for us – fingers crossed!

  53. Ted_F says:

    I note you have a wood burning stove, I too have a modern, clean burning, Danish made stove. I bet that, like me you shove anything that will burn into it short of plastic packaging. Incineration Plant as cottage industry OK?

  54. Mr Green says:

    Hello Ted_F, thanks for your comment. We do burn some paper like bank statements etc and small amounts of cardboard as kindling in the wood burner. Not that much, as it stiffles the wood. In addition, some paper is heavily laminated with inks and plasticisers and I’m not sure how good the smoke is from these materials. We also try to use quality seasoned wood to reduce the particulates and increase heating efficiency.

  55. Mrs Green says:

    @Ted_F: Hello Ted, welcome to the site. We don’t tend to burn much on the wood burner because that would defeat the object of what we do on the site. Most of our readers don’t have access to burning things and we’re here to help people, in a practical way, to reduce their landfill waste. I guess if we just threw everything on the fire, we wouldn’t have much of a story to share! As Mr G said, small amounts of cardboard and personal documents go on there, but the rest of our paper and card is recycled or composted.

  56. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    Hi Folks

    Looks like you have a 50%+ chance of a large incinerator at Javellin Park..Viridor, Cory burn stuff as standard. People will need to find out the details of which companies are using which technology.

    Complete Circle – a consortium between equity investors John Laing, technology provider Keppel Seghers, and United Utilities;

    Cory Environmental Management – the London-based waste management company;

    Urbaser – Spanish waste treatment company;


    Meanwhile, Gloucestershire county council’s cabinet last month approved the reduction of the shortlist of bidders for its 25-year residual waste treatment deal, which was awarded £92 million in PFI credits in November 2008 (see story).

    The council has originally named 10 contenders for the deal, which will involve diverting between 150,000 and 170,000 tonnes of residual waste from landfill a year, in July 2009 (see story), but just four are now left in the running.

    These are:

    Complete Circle – a consortium between equity investors John Laing, technology provider Keppel Seghers, and United Utilities;
    Cory Environmental Management – the London-based waste management company;
    Urbaser – Spanish waste treatment company;

    Alongside the shortlist, the council revealed that the technologies proposed by the remaining bidders were mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and incineration.

    Commenting on the progress made, the council’s cabinet member for waste, councillor Stan Waddington, said: “This sees the numbers of companies bidding to dispose of Gloucestershire’s waste reduced from 10 to four. Whilst we aren’t allowed to go into detail about the bids at this stage, I can say that they propose a variety of technologies, including different types of MBT as well as energy from waste.”

    Gloucestershire county council
    “Whilst all the bids use Javelin Park for parts of the process, in some cases final processing takes place outside Gloucestershire. Now these companies need to work up the details of exactly what they are proposing.”

    The council said that the bidders would be asked to submit detailed plans by late spring 2010, and it aims to award the contract in spring 2011.

  57. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Rob, yes, we’re very concerned about an incinerator becoming a reality,. interesting the local press, despite a lot of national coverage recently, doesn’t seem in the least bit interested in our story, Perhaps they know something we don’t and they hardly want a ‘solution’ staring them in the face 😉

  58. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    Conservative county press support their own conservative cabinet councils strategy, no earthquakes needed.

    The county will select a “preferred bidder” this spring 2010, more likely an incinerator. The officers will then do “consulations” (pro EfW incineration selling)…saying you are all mistaken and naive..incinerators are now modern, green, clean, safe and the rest- to pull the wool over the publics eyes…get it worked up to planning ..spouting phoney HPA/ Defra/consultants reports. Backmailing the public over landfill costs and the incinerator avoids all this.

    They will rubbish/ downplay/deflect/ignore your concerns…there is a whole CIWM/Defra public perception con course on this undertaken by county council officers to get their rotten incinerator through. See Oxfordshire and other burner proposers..only politicans/press/ mass public and campaigns can stop their automaton procurement modelling madness. How do I know? We had 2-3 years battling this nonense in Norfolk and like Surrey, we defeated it for something better.

    East Sussex lost and got a burner!

  59. Jane says:

    There is a probelm with Council’s panicking and having not put enough effort into promoting recycling making rash minimum amount of waste contracts which won’t ever help with minimisation of waste and entering into PFIs for technology which will be out of date quickly and which we will be Paying For Indefinitely!

  60. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    It became unbearable. Bedfords Burner is gone, too expensive, all councils didn’t want it.

  61. Mrs Green says:

    What an incredible story Rob – such a mad waste of money 🙁

  62. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says: another burner bid bites the dust. Peterhead.

  63. Rob Whittle, NAIL2 says:

    Last month a select group of civil servants met.

    In Item 5 Joint EfW Project is was decided Points 12 i-iii that Defra/other departments felt they needed to con and hoodwink the Public better with regards getting guised incinerators through planning and permitting..more coordinated spin, more PR, more gloss via LGA/OGD media machines, more browntogreen wash, carefully spun ministerial announcements and avoid the “Incinerator” word.

    The board welcomed the project and efforts to clarify the role of energy from waste and in discussion made the following points:
    There would need to be careful handling of ministerial announcements. The public perception of energy from waste was often closely associated with incinerators and sometimes failed to recognise the advantages and technologies available.
    The LGA and OGD’s media teams should be kept informed of developments in order to ensure a co-ordinated approach to communication and joined up messages.
    It would be important to consider how EfW facilities can serve both municipal and commercial waste markets.

    These guys have been at it since 2000 promoting or appeasing burners. Groups have fought them and exposed their tactics at every stage for 10 years an more. It will probably affect the promotion of the Gloucestershire burner. Hope the Public can see through it and tell Defra to join to an incinerator free strategy for Gloucs and the UK.

  64. Mrs Green says:

    @Rob Whittle, NAIL2: Thank you Rob; I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed by the whole thing! I think the most telling sign was that GLos City Council was not at Paul Connett’s talk the other week **sigh**

  65. Joe K says:

    ‘Hope the Public can see through it and tell Defra to join to an incinerator free strategy for Gloucs and the UK.’

    The government don’t have a great track record of listening to what the public ‘tell’ it, as nearly 2 million marchers in London demonstrated. Perhaps you should try to *persuade* Defra instead. Though, on the strength of the arguments raised in the last Citizen article, that bird might not fly.

  66. Ben says:

    We can’t keep extracting and processing resources in to dead-end forms where the materials, function and embodied energy are no longer economically recoverable. We’ll just end up with a very resource poor planet and a big pile of unhelpful rubbish cluttering the place up.

    When we have increasingly less fossil fuels, minerals and metals, we’re going to realise we have converted billions of tonnes of these materials from high grade natural resources that are easily extracted and processed in to very low grade post consumer waste, which is tangled up together in a million different forms and composite materials, all of which present major problems if we wanted to recover them, and worse still these mixed forms are scattered all over the planet with every other consumer product and material you could imagine in dirty hazardous environments like landfills.

    If this isn’t bad enough, consider burning the materials, which effectively breaks them down in to very small particles/molecules and scatters them even further, making any hopes of resource recovery vanish. Our current resource consumption and disposal of things is a good route to future resource poverty, while large scale burning of resources is a certain route to it.

  67. Mrs Green says:

    @Ben: Excellent comment, Ben – thank you! You’ve succinctly put many of mine and Mr G’s thoughts. We must start viewing our rubbish as a resource instead of trying to make it go away …

  68. Joe K says:

    Ben say:
    ‘We can’t keep extracting and processing resources in to dead-end forms where the materials, function and embodied energy are no longer economically recoverable.’

    We can and we will unless someone comes up with a very persuasive alternative. Just like the failure of the Copenhagen talks, there is a huge amount of inertia to be overcome, in a consumer society where what people buy is a much bigger deal to them than the packaging it came in. The fortnightly collection is doing more to make people think about what they throw out than virtuous homilies, and that’s something that can be built on. The next step might be to suggest to people that with a small change in their purchasing habits, what used to go in their black bins might go in their composter instead, like shredded paper bags, to use one example.

    I tried, as an experiment, to melt a plastic bottle in an old saucepan, to see if I could get a plastic disc at the bottom (which I could maybe use as a coaster). Not a success. Maybe there are some plastics that melt down better than others, and we should encourage their use, so they can recycled into bollards and other stuff. Finding that out would be a practical step.

  69. Teresa says:

    Couldn’t the landfill sites be mined for plastics and metals which could be recycled? That could reduce the size of them.

    I used to think Combined Heat and Power which means the burning of rubbish to provide heat for homes was a good idea but it creates much less energy than is saved by recycling rubbish and making goods from recyclate over making them from raw materials.

  70. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: I think this will happen one day – I covered those exact thoughts somewhere else on the site. I think we will realise our wasteful mistakes and be digging up those landfill sites in years to come…

  71. Theresa says:

    Greetings from Vernon, B.C. Canada. How fabulous that I came across this article this morning.

    A large Japan based company, as well as Splatsin First Nations, are joining hands to create a 200 million dollar waste incinerator on the North Western most corner of Spallumcheen (Armstrong), this is not far from where I live. Here is a link to the news story . Spallumcheen Town Council wants to be provided with more information, grateful for finding this as I will ensure Council members all are aware of the information provided here.

    In conversation with my Cousin today (he works as a heavy equipment teacher for the First Nations people in Tsawwassen). Told me in a meeting yesterday they were talking about the pros & cons to building an incinerator. I have provided him with a link to this article. I know he will provide his work place with this information in his next meeting when he returns to work after the weekend.

  72. Anthony Orenstein says:

    Here in the US most consumer goods, including food items come wrapped in packaging material inside of packaging material inside of yet MORE packaging material. Cellophane is a veritable plague on the people who have to deal with waste management. I think the first step in reducing the trash volume would be to reduce the amount of wrapping that consumer goods are encased in. Probably about one-half the amount of trash generated is do to over packaged items.

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