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May, 2013:

Reply to Health Protection Agency

Download : IncineratorHPAResponse

Incinerator emissions and high infant mortality rates at electoral ward level

Download PDF : correspondence

Tetronics: Plasma Treatment of Hazardous Waste

Download PDF : HazardousWasteDatasheet

Green Alternatives to Incineration in Scotland


Toxic emissions

Poor monitoring


Birth defects

Infant mortality

Reduced life span in adults

Contamination of land, water and vegetation

Reports on health concerns over waste burning


Spanish study shows increased risk of cancer near incinerators, Dec 2012

“… results support the hypothesis of a statistically significant increase in the risk of dying from cancer in towns near incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste.”

USA – Big news! EPA Health Report on Dioxin Released After Twenty Seven Years of Delays, 17 Feb 2012
(Falls Church, VA) Today the US EPA has finally released their major report on the noncancer health effects of dioxin, which for the past twenty seven years…read more

Incinerator study gets green light, 24 Jan 2012
A fresh government-backed study into the potential health risks of incinerators has been given the go-ahead, sparking concerns that key projects could be de-railed…read more

For every report that says incinerators are safe, there seems to be a dozen more that question this (scroll to the foot of this page). One of the most well known and respected is ‘The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators‘, published by the British Society for Ecological Medicine.  This examines hundreds of scientific studies from around the world.  Collectively, these studies paint a disturbing picture of a multitude of health problems that cannot be simply dismissed.

Reports by respected government bodies have been called into question. For example, in 2004, Defra published a report titled Review of the Environmental and Health Effects of Waste Management. This report largely discounts health concerns related to incineration. However, the Royal Society pointed out that Defra’s report fails to discuss cumulative effects, timelines for exposure, effects of mixtures and synergies of emissions and the additive effects, for example, when combined with other environmental and occupational exposures. Defra acknowledged these deficiencies in the final draft. However, the Royal Society subsequently stated:

“Although the uncertainties have been acknowledged in this report, it is important that anyone using these data takes adequate consideration of its inherent uncertainty”. [ Source: The Royal Society’s peer review of Defra’s report on the environmental and health effects of waste management, March 2004]

Both the Defra report and the Royal Society’s peer review are available online.

Toxic emissions

Burning waste emits fine particulates, heavy metals, innumerable chemicals, a variety of poisonous gases and large quantities of toxic ash [1]. For further information see Toxic Emissions.

Poor monitoring of emissions

The quality of monitoring of emissions from incinerators is poor – click here for more details.


Emissions from incinerators are implicated in a wide variety of conditions including respiratory disorders, neurological diseases, mental illness and various types of cancer [2]. A report published in September 2011 shows that although the emissions from waste incinerators may not be great, overall they can have a significant health impact (Health burden of waste incinerators in Seoul, Scientific study published Sept 2011). Also see this letter (click here) from Giovanni Ghirga, (International Society of Doctors for Environment) from 29 March 2011, which suggests that the health burden from waste incinerators could be very high indeed.

Birth defects

Many studies indicate an increase in birth defects downwind of incinerators. A study in France has shown that chromosomal defects and other major anomalies including facial clefts, megacolon and renal dysplasias may be caused by living close to incinerators [2].

At the end of his report into the health effects of pollution on children, Ralph Ryder concludes:

“The ever-increasing number of damaged babies being born around incinerators should be taken as a strong warning that the ‘experts’ and their friendly politicians are deliberately playing down overwhelming evidence of serious harm to suit industry’s financial interests, and, as it has been shown many times before, in many cases, their own.”

Click here to download his report, “What do you want – a Boy or a Girl”.

Infant mortality

Independent researcher Michael Ryan has found that figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that infant mortality rates (i.e. deaths below one year) in areas upwind of incinerators are significantly lower than in downwind areas. For example areas upwind of the Cheylesmore incinerator in Coventry (see areas shown in green on the map below) recorded an average infant mortality rate of 3.2 per 1,000 live births between 2003 and 2005, while in downwind areas (shown in red) the average was 8.2 (download ONS statistics). Downwind of the Deptford incinerator infant mortality is 8 times higher than the national average [see article here].

Some reports claim that such statistics can be attributed to socio-economic factors, i.e. poverty. However Mr Ryan has found that even in wealthy areas having an incinerator nearby can affect infant mortality – see report on Chingford Green ward in London.

Reduced life span in adults

ONS figures show that New Cross ward, which is largely downwind of the Debtford incinerator, has the highest Standardised Mortality Ratio out of all 625 council wards in London with a figure of 161 for 1999-2003. This translates as 61% more deaths than would be expected [3 & 4]. (See ONS statistics)

Contamination of land, water and vegetation

Studies show that soil and vegetation close to incinerators may become contaminated with incinerator releases of dioxins and heavy metals to levels above normal background concentrations. As a consequence, there is a possibility of agricultural produce becoming contaminated. Livestock may also take in pollutants, largely through ingestion of contaminated vegetation and soil [1]. Furthermore the toxic ash from incinerators will likely be put in landfill, where it can pollute watercourses [2].

[1] Allsop et al, Incineration and Human Health, 2001, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, Univ. of Exeter. Download report.

[2] Thomson, J. Anthony, H.: The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators, 2005, The British Society for Ecological Medicine. Download report.


[4] Original statistical analysis by Michael Ryan and Dr Dick Van Steenis. See UKHR and CountryDoctor for further information.

Reports – For further reports, Click here

Incineration and health issues – Friends of the Earth 2002

Friends of the Earth primarily campaigns against incineration because burning materials is a waste of valuable resources. However we also recognise that there are valid concerns about the impacts on health. We are especially concerned when incinerators are proposed in areas where levels of pollution are already high.

Incineration and Human Health – Greenpeace 2002

A broad range of health effects have been associated with living near to incinerators as well as with working at these installations. Such effects include cancer (among both children and adults) adverse impacts on the respiratory system, heart disease, immune system effects, increased allergies and congenital abnormalities. Some studies, particularly those on cancer, relate to old rather than modern incinerators. However, modern incinerators operating in the last few years have also been associated with adverse health effects.

The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators 2005, updated 2008

Both the amount of waste and its potential toxicity are increasing. Available landfill sites are being used up, and incineration is being seen increasingly as a solution to the waste problem. This report examines the literature concerning the health effects of incinerators.

UK dhild deaths near incinerators

EU waste legislation.pdf

Download PDF : EU waste legislation

The Roadmap – European Commission

The Roadmap

The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe

The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (COM(2011) 571) outlines how we can transform Europe’s economy into a sustainable one by 2050. It proposes ways to increase resource productivity and decouple economic growth from resource use and its environmental impact. It illustrates how policies interrelate and build on each other.

Areas where policy action can make a real difference are a particular focus, and specific bottlenecks like inconsistencies in policy and market failures are tackled to ensure that policies are all going in the same direction. Cross-cutting themes such as addressing prices that do not reflect the real costs of resource use and the need for more long-term innovative thinking are also in the spotlight.

Key resources are analysed from a life-cycle and value-chain perspective. Nutrition, housing and mobility are the sectors responsible for most environmental impacts; actions in these areas are being proposed to complement existing measures.

The Resource Efficiency Roadmap provides a framework in which future actions can be designed and implemented coherently. It sets out a vision for the structural and technological change needed up to 2050, with milestones to be reached by 2020. These milestones illustrate what will be needed to put Europe on a path to resource efficient and sustainable growth.

Read more:

Read the Roadmap (Communication COM(2011) 571)

Read the ‘Analysis associated with the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europepdf‘ (European Commission Staff Working Paper, SEC(2011) 1067)

Read the annexespdf to the Staff Working Paper

Read the press release Choose translations of the previous link (IP/2011/1046)

The Europe 2020 Strategy

The Resource Efficiency Roadmap is part of the Resource Efficiency Flagship of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Europe 2020 Strategy is the European Union’s growth strategy for the next decade and aims at establishing a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy with high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.

Goldman Prize

Prize Recipient

Rossano Ercolini

2013 Europe


Sustainable Development

In Italy and throughout Europe, incineration has been the leading approach to waste management. Consumerism and production has accelerated this trend, rapidly filling landfills and creating a bigger demand for incinerators.

In 1994, construction plans for an incinerator were proposed in a small town in Tuscany. Yet residents were not informed about the impact of the incinerator. Every year, incinerators remove thousands of tons of material from the recycling stream and burn them, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and leaving behind toxics that endanger the health of nearby residents.

A teacher at an elementary school not two miles from the proposed incinerator, Rossano Ercolini had heard of cities like San Francisco that were successfully working to eliminate waste. He taught his students to recycle paper and replaced plastic water bottles and plastic utensils in the school lunchroom with pitchers, glasses and silverware.

When Ercolini heard about construction plans for the incinerator, he became concerned about the local residents’ health. He saw his responsibility as an educator to protect students’ well-being and inform the broader community about the incinerator’s risks as well as solutions to sustainably manage the town’s garbage.

Ercolini began organizing town hall meetings in his village, Capannori—the capital of Italy’s paper mill industry—where residents were able to ask questions and get clear answers about the whys and hows of recycling. He brought a bag of mixed waste and demonstrated how to sort out metal, glass and plastic to recycle and food scraps for composting and livestock feed. He brought in scientists, clergy, and other experts to share information about the dangers of incineration as well as the economic and environmental benefits of Zero Waste.

People began to see that it was indeed possible to manage waste without having to rely on incineration. Building on this momentum, Ercolini formed Ambiente e Futuro (Environment and Future) and began mobilizing street protests where citizens demanded authorities to stop plans for the incinerator. In response to the community’s concerns, Lucca’s regional government officials canceled the incinerator’s construction and put Ercolini in charge of developing a waste management plan. He went door to door to get the community’s input on alternatives to the incinerator, empowering them to propose solutions that would work for them. A year later, Capannori began implementing a new collection system that now recycles 82 percent of the city’s waste. The larger province of Lucca is now incinerator-free following the closure of two existing plants, and the government is committed to keeping incinerators out of the province.

Ercolini is also looking at the bigger picture, working with companies to use packaging that produces less waste. For example, he’s collaborating with Italy’s largest manufacturer of coffee products, Lavazza, to develop reusable versions of single-use espresso capsules. He is also promoting Zero Waste as an opportunity to create jobs, where young people are trained to refurbish durable goods or break them down to recover metals and other material.

Capannori became a springboard for the nation’s Zero Waste movement, which soon grew to include Naples—a strategic location given its dysfunctional waste collection system that left garbage piling up and burning on the streets. Ercolini successfully proposed the city to host Zero Waste International Alliance’s 2009 global meeting. A few months later, the city of Naples joined Capannori in adopting Zero Waste.

Thanks to the grassroots campaign led by Ercolini educating communities on the merits of Zero Waste, 40 incinerators have been scrapped or shut down and 117 municipalities (home to more than 3 million residents) have joined Capannori in adopting a goal of  Zero Waste. In November 2012, for the first time in Europe, the small but affluent region of Aosta passed a referendum banning incineration with overwhelming support from 90 percent of votersErcolini’s efforts have sparked the beginning of a Zero Waste network throughout Europe, with countries such as England, Estonia, Spain, and Denmark following Italy’s lead.

Mining, pelletizing and gasifying waste at Philippine landfill

Mining, pelletizing and gasifying waste at Philippine landfill

A Philippines-based waste to energy company, True Green Energy Group (TGEG), has successfully tested the Material Recycling Facility (MRF), shedder and pelletizng machine at the country’s San Fernando landfill site.

According to the company its facility will reduce landfill waste and create a pelletized feedstock for its gasification based waste to energy system.

First, waste materials that are combustible, such as paper, plastic, food, wood, and agricultural materials, are dried and shredded. The company said that while metal are removed for recycling, the gasification system will still work if some contamination from these materials is present in the feedstock.

Next, the shredded trash is turned into fuel pellets which TGEG said is done by using a special high temperature gasification process to decompose the pellets in a controlled manner.

The company claimed that while about 5 per cent of the pelletized material ends up as ash, the rest is converted into a syngas (mostly hydrogen and carbon monoxide) that is similar to natural gas, but with a lower energy content. The resulting gas is burned in a highly efficient micro turbine to generate electricity.

Pelletizing waste

According to the company, the process of manufacturing fuel pellets involves placing ground biomass under high pressure and forcing it through a round opening called a “die.”

When exposed to the appropriate conditions, the biomass “fuses” together, forming a solid mass. This process is known as “extrusion.” Some biomass (primarily wood) naturally forms high-quality fuel pellets, while other types of biomass may need additives to serve as a “binder” that holds the pellet together.

A roller is used to compress the biomass against a heated metal plate called a “die.” The die includes several small holes drilled through it, which allow the biomass to be squeezed through under high temperature and pressure conditions.

If the conditions are right, the biomass particles will fuse into a solid mass, thus turning into a pellet. A blade is typically used to slice the pellet to a predefined length as it exits the die. Some biomass tends to fuse together better than other biomass.

The proper combination of input material properties and pelleting equipment operation may minimise or eliminate this problem. The company said that it is also possible to add a “binder” material – as it is doing with its biomass to help it stick together.

As they leave the die the pellets are quite hot (around 150 degrees C) and fairly soft. Therefore, they must be cooled and dried before they are ready for use. This is usually achieved by blowing air through the pellets as they sit in a metal bin. The final moisture content of the pellets should be no higher than 8 per cent.

The standard shape of a TGEG fuel pellet is cylindrical, with a diameter of 6 to 8 millimetres and a length of no more than 38 millimetres.

Most common pellets currently on the market must have an ash content of less than 1 per cent, whereas “standard” pellets may have as much as 2 per cent ash, explained the company. All pellets should have chloride levels of less than 300 parts per million and no more than 0.5 per cent of fines (dust).

The company said that 1 tonne of its biomass pellets will cost approximately $165 and that it estimates that the facility at the landfill site in San Fernando is capable of pelletizing between 300 to 1000 tonnes per day.

Additionally, the company said that waste already stored below ground at the landfill will be mined and additional pelletizing equipment installed at the landfill.

Related News & Opinion

Wong Kam-sing releases rubbish warning

CTA: so where would we put the bottom ash and where we would we treat the 7% fly ash (30% ash daily by weight of what they intend to incinerate ??)

Wong Kam-sing releases rubbish warning


The Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing has warned that it won’t be long before Hong Kong is “surrounded by rubbish” if landfills are not expanded.

The current three landfills, in Tuen Mun, Ta Kwu Ling and Tseung Kwan O, are expected to be full by 2020.

Mr Wong described such facilities as indispensable and said the territory needed to expand the current three before an incinerator is ready.

Speaking to reporters after taking part in a RTHK programme, Mr Wong called on residents living near the landfills, who are opposing the expansion, to consider Hong Kong’s overall interests.