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FOTE: Dirty Truths – Incineration and Climate Change

Tackling climate change is the major environmental challenge of our times. Friends of the Earth believes that all government policies should be examined for their climate change impacts, from transport policy to waste policy.

At the same time, other environmental challenges must not be ignored – climate change may be the most immediate environmental crisis, but we should not ignore the possibility of others following on from it. For example, in the case of waste policy, it is vital that we also focus on maximising resource efficiency and on minimising pollution.

Waste policy has important climate change impacts, from, at one end, the emission savings by waste prevention or from recycling, to at the other end, the problem of methane emissions from landfill.

Waste prevention is the most beneficial option from a climate point of view, followed by reuse and recycling; landfill and incineration are worse options.

The UK Government is currently reviewing England’s waste policy, and is proposing to process 25% through energy from waste.

But what is energy from waste? In reality this catch-all term refers to a wide range of technologies, with a whole range of impacts on climate change. In order to better understand the impacts of these technologies, Friends of the Earth commissioned Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd to examine the climate impacts of the different options.

In addition, in order to improve understanding of the climate impacts of different methods of dealing with residual waste (what is left after reuse, recycling and composting), we also asked Eunomia to examine this complex issue.

This summary report takes the results of the Eunomia research and puts them in context. The full report, A changing climate for energy from waste? is available at Friends of the Earth’s web site.

May 2006

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