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May 9th, 2013:

Incineration and Health Issues

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A great waste

Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 12:00am

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Fred Pearce

The many economical and ecological benefits to using human excrement and urine as fertiliser are not to be sniffed at. Fred Pearce gets to grips with a sorely underused resource

Locals call them honey-suckers, but don’t be fooled by the name. They cruise through the hi-tech streets of India’s newest megacity, sucking up its lowest-tech problem: sewage. These trucks empty Bangalore’s million septic tanks and pit latrines, where the majority of its 10 million inhabitants relieve themselves.

In other cities, sewage trucks discharge their cargo into streams and lakes, adding to local pollution. But in Bangalore, the honey-suckers head for farms outside the city, where their stinking loads are in demand to fertilise vegetables and coconut and banana trees. The farmers pay good money for human waste; it produces bumper crops.

The honey-suckers of Bangalore are evidence that the world of excreta is being turned upside down. Realisation is growing that our faeces and urine are not simply waste to be disposed of as fast as possible, but a valuable resource. Flushing sewage into rivers is not just an environmental catastrophe, it is also a ludicrous waste of nutrients that could be helping to feed the world.

Consider what you excrete. You produce some 500 litres of urine and 50kg of faeces a year. Besides water and organic carbon, your annual output contains about 10kg of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium compounds, the three main nutrients plants need to grow – and, helpfully, in roughly the right proportions. This is sufficient to fertilise plants that would produce more than 200kg of cereals, says Christine Werner of German development agency GIZ.

Scale that up and the world’s population excretes 70 million tonnes of nutrients annually. Applied to fields, this could replace almost 40 per cent of the 176 million tonnes of nutrients in chemical fertilisers used by the world’s farmers in 2011.

Spreading human sewage on fields that grow crops doesn’t sound appealing, but it is safer than you might think. Urine is normally free from the pathogens that cause diseases while soil helps to filter and clean bacteria found in faeces. Processed and handled correctly, the organic carbon and nutrients in urine and faeces will make soil more fertile and better able to hold moisture. The benefits would be huge. Recycling our waste onto fields would increase food output and make life a lot easier for poor farmers, who often cannot afford fertiliser. For example, a typical family in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, annually excretes nutrients equivalent to 100kg of chemical fertiliser, worth a quarter of a typical rural income, according to a study by Linus Dagerskog, of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Sweden.

Replacing chemical fertilisers would also conserve supplies of phosphate minerals, which are running low. And while nitrogen in the atmosphere may be practically inexhaustible, converting it into fertiliser is a major user of the world’s energy. Just as the world has to find ways to reuse scarce metals, so we need to find ways to recycle nutrients.

Most people in urban areas – an estimated two billion people – now have access to private or communal toilets. Unless they are connected to a sewer, these toilets empty either into pit latrines – usually little more than a hole in the ground that allows liquids to seep away while solids accumulate – or into septic tanks, where bacteria and an anaerobic environment encourage the solid waste to decompose.

These repositories need periodic emptying or they overflow into the streets. Few municipal authorities step up to the task, so private enterprise has swept in to fill the gap. Latrine and septic-tank emptying is a vast industry, little discussed and little regulated.

In India, despite laws banning the practice, an estimated one million people, mostly women and girls from lower castes, are still paid to scrape poo from the nation’s 100 million or more tanks and latrines, usually with nothing more than a shovel and bucket. They dump the contents in nearby drains or on waste ground. In the Ghanian capital, Accra, most of the contents of the city’s septic tanks end up on the ironically named Lavender Hill.

The fast-growing cities of the developing world are trying to deal with their waste in the way most industrialised countries do – by connecting every building to sewer networks. These take sewage to distant treatment plants that remove solids and other dangerous contaminants before discharging the effluent into rivers. But the infrastructure needed is vast and expensive, and the treatment is energy-intensive, according to Stanley Grant, professor of the University of California, Irvine, in the United States. It also leaves behind solids, which contain valuable nutrients, that end up as landfill.

Sewer networks also rely on huge amounts of water to flush toilets – water that in many places could be better used for drinking or irrigation. Dealing with the waste from flushing toilets typically requires more than a third of a city’s water supplies, which means growing cities taking water from farmers who need it to irrigate crops and feed growing populations.

As a result, few of the world’s megacities – and even fewer of the thousands of medium-sized urban areas – have fully functioning sewer networks. And of those, only about 10 per cent deliver their contents to functioning sewage treatment works. Most discharge raw waste into rivers, where it turns thousands of kilometres of waterways into lifeless open sewers. Further downstream, raw sewage helps create dead zones that now cover 250,000 square kilometres of ocean.

“We need to take the waste out of waste water,” says Grant.

He and others are urging governments to take a fresh look at what we are trying to achieve with our sanitation systems. They should be based not on flushing our problem away but on “closing the loop” in our nutrient cycle, says Pay Drechsel, of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Drechsel says it’s a good thing that farmers in some parts of the world are recycling sewage onto their fields – even if they are doing it unofficially, usually clandestinely and often outside the law.

They are reviving an old tradition – and one that has continued in parts of China. Before the invention a century ago of the chemical process for converting nitrogen from the air into the nitrates plants can use, sewage was widely spread onto urban “sewage farms”. Traditionally, it was collected in the dead of night to avoid offending people’s sensibilities – hence the term “night soil” – and used to grow vegetables and other crops.

Campaigns to improve public health and the introduction of flush toilets meant the practice grew obsolete in most places. (Anecdotal evidence suggests night soil was still being used in Hong Kong’s New Territories up to the 1980s.) Even so, where sewer systems were developed, farmers still sometimes competed for the network’s outpourings. In a few places, this has persisted.

“China’s use of night soil … is probably the reason that its soils are still healthy after four millennia of intensive agriculture,” wrote author Rose George, in a 2008 edition of Slate magazine; and since the 1890s, most of the sewage from Mexico City has been piped untreated to the fields of the Tula Valley, to the north. Today, that megacity’s 21 million people continue to fertilise more than 100,000 hectares with their faeces. The remains of the city’s digested beans, tortillas and chilli peppers double yields of corn and almost triple the rentable value of farms, says Blanca Jimenez, of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. In essence, poo has made Tula Valley farmers wealthy.

The practice is also going through a purple patch in many urban areas in the developing world – especially in dry regions where farmers value the guaranteed year-round irrigation as much as the nutrient supply. In Pakistan, sewage grows a quarter of the country’s vegetables. In the Indian state of Gujarat, farmers compete for sewage at annual auctions, preferring it to freshwater irrigation.

Now, the honey-sucker trucks in Bangalore are offering farmers another option – the sewage from millions of septic tanks and pit latrines. Increasingly, the drivers of these trucks have found they do not have to run the gauntlet of public opprobrium by dumping their loads onto wasteland or into drainage canals. Farmers within and around cities will gladly take their “honey”.

“Sometimes the drivers charge the farmers, and sometimes they pay them. It depends on the season and the market,” says Vishwanath Srikantaiah, of Biome Systems, a Bangalore-based consultancy that has investigated the practice in the city.

Typically, farmers put the sewage into drying pits to kill pathogens and to concentrate the nutrients so they can be dug into the soil more easily. During the dry season, however, they pour still-liquid sewage into dug channels, like regular irrigation.

The economics are good. Like the outflows of sewers, latrine slops increase the income of some farmers by thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, a single truck driver can service a population of 20,000 people and generate an income of US$50,000 a year, twice the price of a new truck.

Vishwanath says septic tanks emptied by honey-suckers offer not only a cheap alternative to the construction of sewers but a superior solution – saving water while delivering fertiliser to farmers, improving soils and boosting food production. Their services should be scaled up, not shut down.

Not everyone agrees. The biggest argument against agricultural recycling of sewage – whether from sewers or latrines and septic tanks – is that it carries disease. While urine is largely pathogen-free, faeces are rich in viruses, bacteria and worms. There are more than two million deaths a year worldwide from diarrhoea and other diseases associated with human waste. Most of these are down to poor hygiene, such as a lack of hand-washing, and are concentrated in areas where people still defecate in the open. Farming or eating crops fertilised by sewage is thought to play a minor role.

The trouble is, however, that there has been little reliable research conducted. A rare study of farmers, by Indian researchers, looked at 22 villages near the Musi river, which is little more than a sewer for the city of Hyderabad. It found that almost half of households irrigating their fields with the sewage flow had reported fever, headaches and skin and stomach problems during the previous year – twice the rate in a village that used clean water for irrigation. The highest disease rates were among women who weeded the fields.

Another study looked at what happened to the crops grown by sewage farmers in the cities of Ghana. Most of them grow salad vegetables such as lettuce that are sold in street food and eaten by some 700,000 people, says Drechsel. He calculates this could cause up to half a million cases of mild diarrhoea a year, nearly one per consumer.

The instant reaction is to ban the practice. But a more practical approach would be to improve hygiene. To maximise the benefits of recycling sewage onto land without creating health problems, safe practices for handling faeces are vital, Drechsel adds. The parasitic protozoa and viruses present in faeces cannot multiply outside the human body, so simply storing the waste in ponds before applying it to the fields kills many dangerous pathogens as the sewage dries out. But this requires months rather than weeks to be effective. Things can be speeded up by sprinkling wood ash or rice husks over the faeces, or by adding other alkaline materials such as lime. In combination with washing salad vegetables before sale, this can eliminate more than 90 per cent of the health risks, says Dennis Wichelns, principal economist at IWMI. Incinerating the waste destroys all pathogens and parasites, but it reduces the nutrient content. The problem, Wichelns admits, will be finding ways to encourage farmers and food sellers to adopt such practices.

The best way to grab most of the advantages of nutrient and water recycling without creating health hazards is to treat sewage before giving it to farmers. A typical sewage works will remove obvious solids such as sanitary towels and then leave the rest to settle at the bottom of ponds, before using bacteria to eat some of the organic material. These processes can remove most pathogens while leaving behind most of the nutrients.

Irrigating with treated sewage effluent is increasingly popular in developed countries short of water, too. For example, Israel uses about 70 per cent of the treated effluent from its sewage treatment works for irrigation.

With more intense chemical treatment, sewage effluent can be reused as drinking water. In Singapore, for example, they have branded their treated effluent NEWater.

“It is cleaner than regular tap water,” says Yap Kheng Guan, senior director of Singapore’s water utility.

While most of the NEWater goes to industries that need pure water, such as microchip manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, some is added to the city’s drinking water reservoirs.

Orange County, in California, filters treated sewage through rocks beneath the ground, before pumping it up to fill the taps of more than two million residents. And London’s drinking water has typically been drunk several times by people living in towns upstream of the River Thames, each time being cleaned up and returned to the river before being extracted again.

The truth is that the days of “flush and forget” must come to an end, even in the developed world. We should be recycling our faeces and urine in the same way we recycle scarce metals. In some places, that will involve advanced technology. But in much of the world that is a long way off. And where water is in short supply, even flushed sewer systems may be an unaffordable luxury. For billions of people in developing countries the best option, both economically and ecologically, may be septic tanks, honey-suckers and the return of the sewage farm.

New Scientist Mark Footer

At our disposal

In Hong Kong, the Drainage Services Department is responsible for collecting, treating and disposing of waste water.

According to the department, about 93 per cent of the city’s population are served by the public sewerage system, which includes a pipe network of about 1,600 kilometres in length, about 200 pumping stations and 69 treatment works collecting and processing about 2.8 million cubic metres of sewage per day from residential, commercial and industrial premises, prior to disposal at sea.

The department is, however, running limited reclaimed-water schemes at 15 sewage-treatment works, the two most extensive being at the Ngong Ping and the Sha Tin facilities, on Lantau and in the New Territories, respectively.

The first tertiary treatment works in Hong Kong to produce reclaimed water, in 2006, Ngong Ping Sewage Treatment Works uses a three-tiered process to reduce organic pollutants, suspended solids, nutrients and pathogenic organisms in sewage. The water produced is odourless and safe, says the department. It is used for flushing in nearby public toilets and those in the Ngong Ping Cable Car Terminal, and also for rearing aquarium fish and controlled irrigation within the treatment works.

The facilities in Sha Tin can produce about 1,000 cubic metres of reclaimed water every day, mainly for use in the irrigation of plants there and the dilution of chemicals required for the sewage-treatment processes.

Says the department: “It is expected that valuable information will be collected on how reclaimed water can be used in other parts of Hong Kong.”


As happens in Government , in the beginning there was the Plan.

then came the Assumptions.

the Assumptions were without form.

darkness was upon the face of the Workers.

they spoke among themselves, saying, “It is a crock of sh&t, and it stinketh.”

the workers went unto their Supervisors and said, “It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odour thereof.”

the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying, “It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide by it.”

the Managers went unto their Directors, saying, “It is a vessel of fertiliser, and none may abide its strength.”

the Directors spoke amongst themselves, saying one to another, “It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong.”

the Directors then went onto the Vice Presidents, saying unto them, “It promotes growth and is very powerful.”

the Vice Presidents went unto the President, saying unto him, “This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigour of the company; with powerful effects.”

the President looked upon the Plan, and saw that it was good.

the Plan became Policy and thereby the formation of S.H.I.T. (Special High Intensive Training).

this is How Sh&t Happens.

Source URL (retrieved on May 9th 2013, 6:13am):

What kind of waste incinerator does Hong Kong need?

Thursday, 09 May, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

The troubling question of what to do about Hong Kong’s waste got a spirited airing at a public forum yesterday evening. There was a panel of five experts who were attending the “International Conference on Solid Waste 2013 – Innovation in Technology and Management”. The conference was organised by the Sino-Forest Applied Research Centre for Pearl River Delta Environment, which is attached to Hong Kong Baptist University.

The previous administration’s proposal was to build a large 3,000-tonnes-per-day incinerator on the controversial location of Shek Kwu Chau, a scenic island off South Lantau. Legco shelved this last year. Controversy intensified in 2011 when it became apparent that instead of going ahead with the original site near the ash lagoons at Tsang Tsui, Tuen Mun, Donald Tsang’s administration wilted in the face of pressure from its political supporter, the Heung Yee Kuk, and opted for the alternative site at Shek Kwu Chau, leaving it to the Environmental Protection Department to make the case for it to the public, thereby earning its distrust.

There has also been controversy over the type of technology to be used, with critics saying the government has not properly looked at other forms of technology such as gasification. The suspicion that has dogged the project spilled over into yesterday’s forum, with several of the roughly 150-strong audience noting that the panel appeared to be made up of incineration proponents. Indeed, although the conference was supposed to be examining thermal treatment of waste, there appeared to be no gasification experts there. Some darkly suggested to Lai See this was because the Hong Kong conference had been timed to coincide with the much bigger conference in London on waste treatment. No doubt this was just a coincidence.

All this aside, it seems clear that modern incinerators have drastically reduced emissions over the past 15 years. Panellist Professor Umberto Arena, a waste energy specialist from Second University, Naples, told the forum that in his opinion gasification and moving grate incineration were similar in terms of their low levels of emissions, and their ability to convert waste to electricity.

Most panellists seemed to agree that if the need was for a large, single, thermal treatment project then incineration was better. But Professor Arena said that if it was also possible to have two or three smaller units, then gasification units were also an option. “The technology is tried and tested over 10 years,” he said. Another panellist, Dr Lee Potts from AECOM, the government’s technical consultants on the incinerator project said that gasification didn’t have a track record at the levels of 3,000 tonnes a day. One significant advantage gasification offers is much lower levels of residue of around 4 per cent, which can be used as material for road building. Ash from incineration is significantly higher at 10-20 per cent but has to be treated and dumped in landfills.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, the undersecretary for the environment, told the forum that Hong Kong was facing a crisis over its waste and had to make a decision on the technology fairly quickly since the landfills would be full in a few years. She added that the government would shortly be issuing a blueprint outlining proposals on dealing with waste for the next 10 years. This will encompass plans for separating domestic waste, reuse and recycling as well as the already announced plans for organic waste treatment plants for processing food waste.

There is no doubt Hong Kong needs some kind of thermal process to deal with its daily waste and to eventually munch its way through the landfills. The government appears wedded to the idea of one big incinerator, though the other possibility is a larger number of smaller ones. But the political effort for this may prove too much for the government to contemplate.

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to [1]


Waste Management




Source URL (retrieved on May 9th 2013, 5:52am):

Incineration overcapacity ‘threatens’ recycling | New study adds to warning of incineration overcapacity | Resource magazine

Incineration overcapacity ‘threatens’ recycling
21 January 2013 by Annie Reece

A new study commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator
Alternatives (GAIA) has found that incinerators operating in some EU
states have the capacity to burn ‘more than the non-recyclable waste
generated’ and warns that plans to increase incineration capacity pose an
‘environmental and an economic threat’.

The ‘Incineration overcapacity and waste shipping in Europe: the end of
the proximity principle?’ report, released today (21 January) by GAIA, an
international alliance of more than 650 grassroots organisations in over
90 countries, found that Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and
the United Kingdom already have more incineration capacity than waste to
burn and ‘as a result, shipments of waste for burning has increased
across national borders’. According to the group, this ‘contradicts the
proximity principle’ of the Waste Framework Directive and causes
‘unnecessary CO2 emissions’.

The report reads: ‘the construction of new incineration plants in
countries that already have a high share of waste incineration. can have
a negative effect on the achievement of high recycling rates.

‘This also opens the door to the increase of waste shipping within the
EU, which contradicts the principle of proximity set out in the WFD.
[and] the fact that waste shipping for incineration with energy recovery
does not need authorisation creates a lack of information and threatens
the recycling goals set by the Waste Framework Directive.’

The report states that 22 per cent of the EU’s waste is burned in the 406
incinerators currently in operation in the EU.

Although Germany, France and Italy have 63 per cent of all EU
incinerators, the highest incineration rates (measured per capita) were
Denmark (365 kilogrammes (kg)), Luxembourg (240 kg) and Sweden (226 kg),
with the latter already having to import waste to ensure that the
incinerators are running at efficient levels.

The report goes on to say that overcapacity has ‘very high potential
impacts’ on recycling markets and on waste treatment prices.

‘On one hand, investments in incineration facilities must be paid off and
this creates a need of waste being sent to incineration, rather than
prevented or recycled. On the other hand, if not enough waste is sent to
incineration to pay off the investments, incineration fees must increase,
which has an effect on waste charges paid by households and commercial

‘Therefore, planning overcapacity when the magnitude of the current and
future waste flows is not certain represents both an environmental and an
economic threat.’

‘Hijack waste prevention and recycling’

Commenting on the report findings, Coordinator of GAIA in Europe Joan
Marc Simon urged the European Commission to introduce tighter controls
over European incineration capacity.

“If the European Commission is to maintain its commitment to limit
incineration to non-recyclables by 2020, the strategy should be to close
incinerators and not to build new ones.

“The objectives of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap and recycling targets
won’t be achieved unless the European Commission tightly controls the
European incineration capacity.”

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Rossano Ercolini

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Sustainable Development

Photos | italiano

An elementary school teacher, Rossano Ercolini began a public education campaign about the dangers of incinerators in his small Tuscan town that grew into a nationwide Zero Waste movement.

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 voters. Ercolini’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.




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More incineration than trash to burn threatens recycling in EU

January 23, 2013 | Topic: From the World > NEWS

More incineration than trash to burn threatens recycling in EU

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TweetShare on LinkedIn+1 press-release by GAIA (, an international alliance of more than 650 grassroots organizations in over 90 countries that works to stop incinerators and promote safe, sustainable and just alternatives.

Brussels: A new study reveals that incinerators already operating in some EU states have the capacity to burn more than the non-recyclable waste generated. Still, industry is pushing to further expand incineration capacity in the European region.

The study finds that:

  • Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom already have more incineration capacity than trash to burn.
  • As a result, shipping of waste for burning has increased across national borders, which contradicts the proximity principle (1) and causes unnecessary CO2 emissions.
  • Despite already burning 22% of EU’s waste, the industry plans to increase the European incineration capacity, undermining the objectives set out in the Waste Framework Directive (WFD 2008/98/EC) and the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, which advocate the prioritization of waste prevention, re-use and recycling.(2)
  • The increase in waste shipments may endanger accomplishment of recycling targets, particularly in those countries that are currently further away from achieving them.

If the European Commission is to maintain its commitment to limit incineration to non-recyclables by 2020, the strategy should be to close incinerators and not to build new ones. The objectives of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap and recycling targets won’t be achieved unless the European Commission tightly controls the European incineration capacity,” said Joan Marc Simon, coordinator of GAIA in Europe.


“In Germany the objectives of the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe are nothing but empty words, because there are hardly any obstacles against building new incineration plants, and the recycling targets of packaging material are still too low. Improvements in waste prevention and recycling are happening only slowly, if at all,” said Hartmut Hoffmann of BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany).

United Kindgom

“The European Commission has warned the United Kingdom to pursue reuse and recycling rather than overcapacity of incineration, and has noted that: ‘Countries like Denmark and Switzerland are burning much more than they should and that’s not good’.(3) However, the Government has not even been monitoring the situation in the UK, despite the fact that there is already more incineration capacity in the UK than genuinely residual waste,” said Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network).


“France has one quarter of all European incinerators, yet there are new ones still in the pipeline. The incineration overcapacity in the country is responsible for the low implementetion of the necessary separate collection and recycling programs. As a result our recycling rates are lower than they could be,” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Policy Officer at CNIID (National Center for Independent Information on Waste).


“Majorca has the sad honour to host the largest incinerator in southern Europe. As a result the citizens pay the highest waste fee in Spain and suffer the health impacts associated with burning their and others’ waste. The Waste Framework Directive was the excuse to build an incinerator that depends on waste imports to operate and oppresses recycling. In 2011 84% of the municipal waste was incinerated, only 16% recycled,” said Margalida Ramis, coordinator of the local group GOB in Majorca.

“If incineration overcapacity continues and/or is extended it will either be at the expense of taxpayers – because it will increase waste fees to compensate for the unused installed capacity – or it will hijack waste prevention and recycling – because there will not be enough waste to burn.The European Commission should control the supply of incineration capacity in the European market to ensure it doesn’t endanger prevention and recycling. It should also remove all the economic and legal incentives that today make burning waste preferable to recycling,” concluded Simon.

GAIA ( is an international alliance of more than 650 grassroots organizations in over 90 countries that works to stop incinerators and promote safe, sustainable and just alternatives.

For a copy of the report please contact or download here.

This report with similar demands has been published by groups in Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK.


Joan-Marc Simon
(t) +34 646408963 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting +34 646408963 FREE end_of_the_skype_highlighting
(e) jm.simon(at)

(1) The proximity principle (art16 WFD 2008/98/EC) advocates that waste should be treated close to the point at which is generated and that “the network shall be designed to enable the Community as a whole to become self-sufficient in waste disposal and recovery operations.” Since the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) opened the European market to incineration, the shipment of waste for recovery operations has increased which means more non-national waste is burned in the EU.

(2) The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (COM(2011)571), supported by the resolution of the European Parliament of May 24, 2012, states that by 2020 incineration with energy recovery should be limited to non-recyclable materials. Currently the EU burns 22% and non-recyclable materials amount to less than 20%.

(3) UK edges up European recycling league table., 1 March 2012. Available from:

GAIA : UK incinerator plans? They’re just rubbish

UK incinerator plans? They’re just rubbish

by Heather Saul, The Independent, London

A wave of new publicly-funded incinerators being built to burn rubbish could be mothballed before they are even turned on, amid claims there will not be enough waste to fuel them.

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has begun withdrawing funding for new incineration plants with predictions there will be nothing for them to burn. Support for a scheme in Liverpool was withdrawn last month, following the removal of funding for projects in North and West Yorkshire.

The UK already has 32 rubbish incinerators but plans for 100 new ones are in the planning stages with local authorities around the country. The rush to build the new plants is rooted in the idea that they can be a cheaper alternative to sending rubbish to landfill, while creating renewable energy at the same time.

Thirty seven percent of the 23 million tonnes of household refuse generated in the UK each year currently ends up dumped in landfill.

Among the champions for incineration is Johnny Ball, the TV presenter who popularised science in the 1980s, said: “Almost every European country, with the exception of the UK, has long since realised that one good way to cut down the burning of fossil fuels is to burn waste instead. Waste is free, in that we have to collect it anyway.”

But in building scores more incinerators, critics claim Britain is in danger of repeating mistakes made by the Netherlands and Germany, both of which have proved unable to find enough rubbish to fuel them. The Dutch rely on imported waste – some from the UK – to fuel their plants.

As early as 2015, the UK could have underused incinerators, according to a report by the waste consultants Eunomia. It estimates that unless the UK dramatically increases the amount of rubbish for incineration, there will be insufficient material to burn when the new plants open. Critics argue that rapid improvements in rubbish recycling will add to the lack of demand for incineration. They fear the UK could be forced to import waste from abroad to fuel the incinerators or even close them before they have even opened.

Many of the proposed incinerators are being planned in the face of widespread opposition from residents. Hundreds of protesters attended the opening last week of a public inquiry into plans to build a £500m waste incinerator in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. Opponents are challenging the county council’s plan on health grounds and are also demanding to know where the rubbish to fuel the plant will come from.

Campaigners say Norfolk’s recycling rate could increase by almost 50 per cent without the need for the plant at Saddlebow, King’s Lynn, at which the county council is proposing to burn more than 170,000 tons of rubbish annually. The county’s recycling rate was more than 45 per cent last year.

Mike Knights of Kings Lynn Without Incineration said: “My own position when I first looked at the project was that it would get rid of waste to produce electricity. It does sound like a good thing to do.

“But when you appreciate how inefficient it is, the side effects that are still present even with modern technology – I use that term loosely – and if you look at the other options and simply change the way waste is collected, you could drastically reduce any potential justification for this.”

Defra says it is already moving to curb the overcapacity threat. A spokeswoman said: “We are unlikely to experience the overcapacity that occurs in some EU countries.

“Basing waste treatment capacity projections on the projects that are currently in planning is inaccurate because there is a chance that not all the plants will actually be built.”


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