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Article on the case against building new incinerators in the UK for RDF

It is worth reading the 9th October 2012 Isonomia article ‘Exports: a waste of energy?‘ by Eunomia Principal Consultant Adam Baddeley. The article critiques the primary arguments that the domestic incineration lobby use to claim that it is better to build new incinerators to treat RDF than to export it to other European countries.

UKWIN would rather waste were reduced, re-used, recycled, composted or anaerobically digested rather than converted into RDF for incineration. The current shortfalls of incinerator feedstock in continental Europe and the prospect for sending waste as RDF to keep their less inefficient incinerators going certainly undermines the case that further domestic incineration capacity is required to deal with residual waste, even before one gets into domestic overcapacity arguments and whether alternatives forms of residual waste management would be better.

The prospect of RDF exports seriously undermines the ‘need’ case for proponents of new incineration capacity in the UK because it does not depend on arguments as to the level of recycling and composting that should be achieved or whether incineration is a good thing or not. As such, there have been various attempts by the UK incineration lobby to argue that it would be better to spend a lot of money to build a new incinerator in the UK rather than spending far less to send that waste to an existing incinerator in Europe.

Whilst most of what the Isnomia article says is very reasonable and does a good job undermining the arguments made by the incineration industry lobby, UKWIN’s position is that incineration (whether it is at a domestic or European facility) is most certainly a waste of energy when it is burning waste that is not genuinely residual, and exporting that waste for incineration elsewhere would simply be less of a waste rather than not a waste. Similarly, even if one contract were flexible enough to allow for more recycling it would still not justify the construction of more domestic incineration capacity.

The Isonomia article is available from:

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