Waste activists take up a burning issue

GREEN campaigners who battled against the controversial Byker incinerator in Newcastle have launched a new battle to stop a similar facility being built south of the Tyne.

GREEN campaigners who battled against the controversial Byker incinerator in Newcastle have launched a new battle to stop a similar facility being built south of the Tyne.

The activists have reacted in horror at suggestions to burn rubbish in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, which together produce 367,500 tonnes of waste each year, claiming incineration releases a “deadly cocktail” of CO2 emissions and cancer-causing particles.

The three councils, which have pooled their resources for a new joint waste strategy, said nothing has yet been decided, including the type of any new plant or its location.

And they stressed there is no risk posed by the modern facilities they would consider, while they have to cut the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill or pay millions to the government.

Yesterday Friends of the Earth and BAN Waste – which was set up to fight the Byker plant – called for public opposition to any new incinerator. The Newcastle site closed in 1998 and four years later Newcastle City Council was fined £25,000 with £28,100 costs after admitting breaking environmental protection laws by allowing 2,000 tonnes of contaminated ash from the incinerator to be spread on 44 sites across the city.

Yesterday Brian Atkinson, of South Tyneside Friends of the Earth, said: “We are calling on the councils to adopt a robust strategy to reduce and recycle – without incineration which releases a deadly cocktail of CO2 emissions and cancer causing particles. Burning rubbish has no place in a sustainable waste strategy – the risks to public health and the environment outweigh all other considerations.”

BAN Waste spokesman Dan Alliband said: “A typical incinerator emits a cocktail of heavy metals and killer chemicals including dioxins, acid gases and thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide and toxic ash.”

The three councils are aiming to increase the amount of rubbish recycled to 30% by 2010, 35% by 2015 and 45% by 2020, but say there will always be some waste that cannot be reused. Between now and 2020 they will have to cut the amount of waste sent to landfill from 281,671 tonnes to 76,933 tonnes. They can then be fined £150 per tonne of waste total. The new strategy, available to view in full and comment on at all three councils’ websites, includes nine options for dealing with waste.

Yesterday Fiona Brown, project director of South Tyne and Wear Waste Management Partnership said: “The latest advice from the Government’s Health Protection Agency is that modern energy from waste plants with controls does not cause health problems.”


Treatment – the options

OPTIONS for a waste treatment place for Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland:

1. Anaerobic digestion of putrescible wastes – this converts organic waste into a smaller, solid residue similar to compost.

2. Anaerobic digestion of all wastes – this option looks at treating all waste, not just organic, at an anaerobic digestion facility.

3. Mechanical biological treatment for use in energy from waste plant.

4. Mechanical biological treatment for use in landfill.

5. Autoclaving – a treatment technology that sterilises waste and produces a material that can be used as a fuel.

6. Energy from waste – waste is burned to generate electricity and/or heat, plus make it smaller for landfill.

7. Advanced thermal treatment – which processes burnt or partially burnt waste, leaving a residue which needs to be taken to landfill.

8. Aerobic digestion– the composting of wastes in the presence of air.

9. Energy from waste with combined heat and power.


Modern waste plants ‘pose little risk to public health’

IN November 2005 the Health Protection Agency issued guidance on the incineration of solid waste, in which experts said modern plants posed “little risk to public health”.

The HPA said modern, well-managed waste incinerators will only make a “very small contribution” to background levels of air pollution and that it was “not aware of any consistent or convincing evidence” of a link with bad health.

The study concluded: “Incinerators emit pollutants into the environment but provided they comply with modern regulatory requirements, such as the Waste Incineration Directive, they should contribute little to the concentrations of monitored pollutants in ambient air.”


David Whetstone
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