Menu Close

Commons Sense Prevails for Zero Waste

On Tuesday 2nd November 2010 the House of Commons, Committee Room 10, was the venue for a gathering of anti-incineration / pro-zero-waste campaigners and interested MPs. The event, organised by Gloucestershire activist Diana Shirley, was chaired by Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, and featured presentation delivered by:

The meeting was attended by about 50 campaigners, and also by Lord Teverson, the LibDem House of Lords Spokesperson and team leader for Climate Change and Energy; and some 20 MPs, including: Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Conservative for Cotswold); Andrew George (LibDem, St Ives); Steve Gilbert (LibDem, St Austell and Newquay); Martin Horwood (LibDem, Cheltenham); Lawrence Robertson (Conservative, Tewkesbury); Dan Rogerson (LibDem, North Cornwall); Gary Streeter (Conservative, South Hams); Henry Bellingham (Conservative, North West Norfolk); and Oliver Colvile (Conservative, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport).

According to event organiser Diana Shirley:

The event was organised by GlosAIN (Gloucestershire Against Incinerators), the network Gloucestershire-based groups, and GlosVAIN (Gloucestershire Vale Against Incineration), on behalf of campaigners across the country who oppose waste incineration and who work to promote sustainable alternative approaches. The main objective of the evening was to raise awareness among parliamentarians and policy makers about the issues and arguments for “zero waste” strategies, and to highlight the problems associated with incineration. This objective was certainly achieved!

Professor Paul Connett, who recently spoke to the Division for Sustainable Development at the United Nations on ‘Zero waste – theory and practice around the world’, told those assembled at the House of Commons that:

Instead of burning our discarded materials, we need to move towards a zero waste system, where rubbish is considered a resource to recycle. Incineration, including gasification, detracts from recycling, since they don’t work without burning good recyclable materials. Incinerators also emit more greenhouse gases than when the organic component is treated by anaerobic digestion.

Professor Connett issued a challenge to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to either refute, point by point, the evidence of Professor Vyvyan Howard [Download], or withdraw the HPA’s claim that no research exists to show the health damage caused by incineration.

Friends of the Earth Resource and Consumption campaigner Julian Kirby said:

Each year the UK sends over £650 million of recyclable materials to be dumped in landfill sites or burned in wasteful incinerators. That is a massive waste of resources. Over seventy thousand new jobs would be created in the UK if we recycled 70% of our business and council-collected municipal waste. Given that the Flanders Region in Belgium has achieved and maintain a 70% recycling rate over several years, and that both Scotland and Wales have set 70% recycling targets for 2025, why should England be left behind?

Incineration of recyclable and compostable material is not just bad for the environment, it is a massive waste of resources and a huge unnecessary cost to our cash-strapped economy. As the latest waste data shows, we are producing less and less residual waste each year, and we are recyling and composting more and more. This is the direction we need to continue to travel – there is therefore no need or place for incineration in a
genuinely zero waste future.

For more from Friends of the Earth see Overconsumption? Our use of the world’s natural resources, Friends of the Earth Europe/Sustainable Europe Research Institute, September 2009; Gone to waste: the valuable resources that European countries bury and burn, Friends of the Earth, October 2009; and More jobs, less waste, Friends of the Earth, September 2010.

BioRegional’s representative Jonathan Essex spoke of the benefits of reusing construction and demolition material, explaining that:

Reclamation and reuse helps reduce climate impact not just reduce waste to landfill. Reuse creates 25 jobs for every job associated with incineration. We can learn a great deal from other countries where EcoParks are a thriving part of the local economy. Templates already exist for the layout and operation of EcoParks based on a social enterprise model.

Barbara Farmer of SWARD explained how:

The dioxins and heavy metals that are not permitted to leave incinerator chimneys are scrubbed out by passing the gasses through lime filled filters, and the resulting ash, known as air pollution control (APC) residues, is brought in tankers to Bishops Cleeve. It comes from Lockerbie in Scotland, Kent, Slough, Bolton and Somerset, to give you an idea of the miles travelled. This site is referred to in incinerator planning applications as a “specialist landfill site” but frankly it is the cheapest, crudest method available. The ash is pumped into silos, mixed with leachate drained off landfill, or contaminated garage forecourt water, or other hazardous liquid waste. After mixing it is dumped in open trucks and driven across the site to be tipped.

According to a recent (May 2010) report [link] by Greenfield Science’s Dr. Andy Tubb:

Occasionally it has been claimed that what appears to be dust is in fact steam. Steam may occur where there is an exothermic chemical reaction of the lime with water or through the release of heat stored in the lime when it comes into contact with water, or both. In these cases there will also be sufficient energy to entrain dust with the steam, and the emission will contain both. A hot emission of steam and dust is likely to be dispersed more widely by the wind than a cold mechanically generated dust cloud, because the heat will provide thermal buoyancy to the emission…The evidence gathered is consistent with APC dusts escaping from Wingmoor Farm hazardous landfill site, and suggests that these make a considerable contribution to the local environment.

Dr. Tubb’s conclusion is supported by an Environment Agency report that notes:

From the proportional dust mixing model, the study showed that dust associated with APC could be detected in some directional dust samples collected beyond the site boundary. On one occasion, about 250m from Wingmoor Farm, the dust was strongly associated with APC (from DustScan Directional Dust Characterisation 2008, Wingmoor Farm Landfill Sites and Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire, for the Environment Agency Tewkesbury, Final report May 2010).

SWARD believe that:

We must stop the myth that incineration is an answer to landfill. Incinerators create huge problems, one of which is the stockpiling of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which will never ever go away, which are known to be harmful to human health and which the UK has signed up to reducing and ultimately eliminating, and yet which are being mixed with dirty water and allowed to blow straight across our villages. A technology that produces hazardous and eco-toxic waste (in the form of ash and residues) is not sustainable, nor is it either safe or sensible.

One of the campaigners present, Viv Stein, Brent Friends of the Earth Spokesperson, said:

Incinerators are a dead technology, sold on spin. No new plants have been approved in the United States since 1995. The UK is now being targeted by companies keen to make a profit here – at the expense of the public purse, local communities and the environment. Incinerators bind local Councils to costly and inflexible long term contracts which are bad news during the recession. Councils sometimes even have to pay penalties because they are not providing enough material to burn.


  1. Barry Robinson

    Excellent. Is there any way in which we can draw this to the attention of those (House of Commons and House of Lords) Ministers (ir)responsible for waste management? None attended, although even they can see the writing on the wall for incineration.
    Thank you all you brilliant people. ‘This is not the begining of the end, but it is clearly the end of the beginning’.

  2. Viv Stein

    Mike Freer, MP for the Brent Cross area in north London, was invited, but he failed to show any interest. This was even though he promoted an incinerator at Brent Cross in north London when he was leader of Barnet Council, until just before the election.

    At the £4.5-billion Brent Cross Cricklewood planning inquiry, he claimed that the air leaving the 140-metre chimney would be cleaner than that going in, but has never substantiated his remarks, despite repeated requests.

  3. M.A.Reeves

    It was interesting to note that Caroline Flint did not attend this meeting even though she supports the project at Hatfield Colliery which may include an incinerator

  4. L Chipp

    Yes, it was, M A Reeves. Ms Flint was invited, albeit rather late, but ‘was unable to attend’, as were Ed Miliband and John Healey, despite Hatfield falling into Ed’s constituency, the BDA project at Manvers into John Healey’s constituency, if I have judged their patches correctly. I was very disappointed, given that Ms Flint is backing the project at Hatfield I would have liked to see her take interest in what could be a development that turns out to have a devastating effect on Hatfield itself and on nearby Doncaster.

  5. Shlomo


    Dr Connett’s talks feature Vyv Howard’s “brilliant paper” on Particulate Emissions and Health evidence to the Ringaskiddy Inquiry. Full copy of slides as ppt show (27Mb) or jpegs (12Mb) available from the links above)
    EA Response to a public request for a peer review of Professor Vyvyan Howard’s research on nanoparticles: “At the current time Professor Vyvyan Howard has not published any paper on the relationship between public health and incineration that has been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal”. SINFIN, Derby, EA Permit (p.99), Nov, 2010.

    Dr. Connett’s comment: The writer should be fired! Prof Howard co-authored a book on particles and health in 1999 (with the DoH chief scientist, Bob Maynard) and has produced many presentations/articles since. His paper to the Irish Inquiry is itself a ‘peer’ review of nanoparticles and health – where is the EA’s own review?

    • Maynard, R. and C. Howard, Eds, Particulate Matter: Properties and Effects upon Health. 1999, Oxford: BIOS Scientific Publishers.

    # Nanoparticles are not efficiently captured by air pollution control devices
    # Travel long distances
    # Remain suspended for long periods of time
    # Penetrate deep into the lungs
    # so small they can easily cross the lung membrane – slide 50
    # from the bloodstream they can easily cross the membranes of every tissue in the body – slide 51
    # can even cross the blood brain barrier (iron, lead, silicon nano-aggregates in brain – slide 52)

    Nano-particle fate and toxicity Vyv Howard INCHES conference Vienna June 2007 cites Roy Microsc. Soc. book 1999 Particulate Matter, properties and effects on health: Royal Society 2000 Ultrafine particles in the atmosphere; RMS 2004 Nano Particles and Nanostructured Materials: implications for health

    Pulmonary Defence mechanisms – alveolar macrophages engulf particles in the alveoli and transport to lymphatics. Do not easily recognise particles of <65nm and are easily overwhelmed by large numbers. Gives pictures of the lung and respiratory membrane and schematic of cell mechanism for engulfing nanoparticles (endocytosis) like engulfing viruses

    Mechanisms of nanoparticle cytotoxicity.
    Shows damage in experiments under 4 headings: Catalysis; membrane perturbation; chaperone effects on proteins; physical damage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.