The 6th National Waste Summit took place on 26 and 27 November at Croke Park Convention Centre, Dublin. This summit explored the options open to Ireland in the light of the need to fulfil their EU commitment to landfill only one million tonnes of waste in 2010 and only 0.45 million tonnes by 2016. The National Waste Summit, now in its sixth year, is described as “Ireland’s premier waste management conference”.
At the conference, James Greyson of BlindSpot delivered an excellent presentation of interest to those concerned about waste incineration and climate change.
James talks about precycling.
Precycling is action taken so something doesn’t become waste. Precycling is preparing for not-wasting. The first use of the word ‘precycling’ was in a public waste awareness campaign designed by Maureen O’Rorke for Berkeley City Council in 1988.
1) Phasing out incompatible materials
2) Arranging that resources can remain as resources
3) Building nature’s capacity to remake resources
4) Meeting more needs with less so everyone can take part
James also refers to the ‘wasteberg’.
The wasteberg is the hidden part of municipal waste. We don’t see the energy it took to make that waste. We don’t see the additional waste produced along the way. We don’t see the energy, emissions and impacts at each stage. The more materials we throw away the more that will need to be replaced, and the bigger the wasteberg up ahead of us. The recoverable energy from waste is a tiny fraction of the whole wasteberg replacement energy. This energy is expensive, so ‘energy from waste’ is like throwing a lot of money into the air and then being pleased if it’s not entirely lost.
And he quotes Biffa “Burning 1t RDF makes 1.91t waste ash, CO2, CO, NOX, exotic pollutants and contaminated water vapour”, noting:
This mass balance doesn’t account for discharges of process water so the total output will be higher. So, far from destroying waste, we can double our waste by burning it. Anyone interested in incinerators should take care to see a report by the British Society for Ecological Medicine, 70 pages and over 300 scientific references. If we wanted something to produce vast quantities of some of the most dangerous compounds imaginable and deliver them into people’s lungs and bloodstream then we need look no further.
On Waste PFI contracts, James Greyson says:
PFI: imagine getting a 30 year mortgage on an unwanted house and having no say in the purchase. This is waste sub-prime. PFI is a great instrument if you want to do 2 things: Eliminate the paying customer from the purchasing decision; and lock in the default waste paradigm for another 3 decades.