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Quotes

Recycling Quotes

Governmental Sources

Stroud District Council leaders Doina Cornell (Labour), Martin Whiteside (Green) and Ken Tucker (Liberal Democrat):
The incinerator is a disaster. It is expensive to run, the contract undermines attempts to reduce the amount of waste we produce and recycle, and will undermine our commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 and tackle climate change.

Report by Eunomia for the Scottish Government:
It would be wise to limit development of new thermal treatment capacity to that required once any targets have been met to avoid creating overcapacity as recycling increases.

Dawn Woodward, DEFRA's Deputy Head of Resources and Waste:
[EfW] is at the bottom of the waste hierarchy. There always be a place for it but we hope with the activities [set out in the Government's waste and resources strategy] that we will push up everything else and that EfW remains at the bottom. There should not be such a parity between recycling and EfW.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra):
Increased recycling and use of recyclate will lead to less landfilled and incinerated packaging waste, less litter and decrease in the use of virgin raw materials. These outcomes will improve the environment for the public and for wildlife, as well as generating carbon savings...Increased recycling of packaging waste will also lead to less packaging waste being sent to energy-from-waste and landfill treatment. Packaging waste going to landfill or incineration loses its residual value for good and harms the environment at the same time.

The Danish Government:
We incinerate an enormous amount of waste in Denmark; waste which we could get much more out of by more recycling and better recycling.

Defra:
At Local Authority level, individual recycling rates ranged from 14 per cent to 69 per cent…lower rates could result from an authority focusing on avoiding landfill by investing in incineration and targeting its waste management policies on that treatment solution, rather than poor recycling awareness or initiatives.

Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State (Renewable Energy), Energy and Climate Change:
Incineration should be considered for electricity generation only after all other options, such as recycling and reuse, have been looked at

Natural Scotland & SEPA:
Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) resulting from the thermal treatment of combustible waste can be used in the manufacture of construction materials as a substitute for virgin aggregate. The use of incinerator bottom ash in construction projects is not the same as recycling the materials which were burnt to generate the ash - it is an example of downcycling. The aim of the Zero Waste Plan is that most waste is sorted into separate streams for closed loop recycling and minimise the quantities requiring tertiary treatment and, in the case of thermal treatment, minimise the amount of ash being produced which then requires further management and/or disposal. Therefore, the use of incinerator bottom ash (IBA) will not count towards the household waste recycling target...

Dr Paul Leinster, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency:
...What we should not be doing is having incinerators which then mean minimisation, re-use, recycling get impacted and that has to be over the 25 year period. I do have concerns over locking technologies in on a 25 year basis when technologies are moving as fast as they do....

Local Government Improvement and Development:
There is a danger that investing in large, inflexible EfW incineration facilities as a technical fix to divert waste from landfill can undermine efforts to prioritise minimisation and recycling.

Urban Mines:
...the recorded data suggests that up to 97.5% of the C&I waste landfilled in the [North West] region could be recycled if the correct facilities and services were available.

Audit Commission:
WDAs [Waste Disposal Authorities] might buy too much disposal infrastructure if they: overestimate future volumes of waste arising (including other authorities’ waste or trade waste). They may also achieve a worse environmental solution if, by building large disposal facilities, they reduce their own financial incentive to pursue waste reduction or recycling initiatives.

Audit Commission:
The challenge exercise for recycling and the Council’s ability to maximise recycling is limited by the emphasis that has been placed on incineration and the need to maintain guaranteed minimum tonnages of waste to support the operation of the incinerator.

Parliamentary Sources

London Assembly Environment Committee:
Investing in more EfW [incineration] can negatively affect long term recycling rates...

Russell George, Welsh Conservative spokesperson on the environment:
There has to be greater understanding and acceptance that the waste that we generate is a valuable resource that must be properly capitalised in the Welsh economy. We have a circular economy concept, and that is why I believe it is highly important that we are pumping back materials into the economy rather than burning or burying them. That is the only viable solution for the future.

Llyr Huws Gruffydd, Plaid spokesperson on the environment:
The current policy to fund waste incineration projects for 25 years is unsustainable for economic and environmental reasons...Waste incineration would mean that local authorities would have the perverse incentive not to increase recycling rates as they would otherwise struggle to supply waste incinerators with sufficient combustibles

20 MPs:
That this House notes in the UK there is now more waste incineration capacity built and under construction than it is forecast there will be genuinely residual combustible waste to burn; further notes that incineration overcapacity can be a barrier to achieving the recycling society; believes that realising such a recycling society would result in significant economic, social and environmental benefits; acknowledges the need to send a clear message that the waste hierarchy should shift focus away from incineration and towards waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting; and calls on the Government and the devolved governments to introduce a complete moratorium on new waste incineration capacity, covering both conventional waste incineration and other forms such as gasification and pyrolysis, as a matter of urgency.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRACOM):
When we [EFRACOM] asked the Minister how the Government ensures that only genuinely residual waste is sent to incinerators, he told us that the key pressure is gate fees—i.e. the charge that must be paid to dispose of waste in an incineration facility. However, we are concerned about the effectiveness of this singular mechanism following evidence we received about ‘put or pay contracts’ and negative impacts on recycling rates.

European Union Sources

Oakdene Hollins (UK) at the request of the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) within the Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (DG EPRS) of the European Parliament:
The UK currently exports approximately half of its domestic municipal waste but is planning to develop incinerator plants domestically. Due to the high capital costs associated with the construction of incinerators, once incineration is available, it can create a lock-in effect and divert investment away from higher value applications for recyclates, undermining waste prevention strategies (Wilts & von Gries, 2015). Additionally, overcapacity can lead to financial risks both for local governments and private businesses (GAIA, 2013).

Helmut Maurer, European Commission’s waste and recycling division:
…Our way of counting recycling is flawed… We are lying to everyone. We do not recycle, we incinerate and incineration is not recycling…

Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Environment:
We should avoid over investment in incineration to the extent that it inhibits progress to further recycling and waste reduction because once built, as you mentioned yourself, they need to be fed with waste for many decades and in a way we could be locked in

Janez Potočnik European Commissioner for Environment:
...There are two major objectives we need to pursue. Obviously, landfill rates must go down as quickly as possible, but it is also important to switch from energy recovery to increased recycling. Plastic recycling rates are far too low across Europe with an average of just 24 per cent. Today, even in countries with high recovery rates, there is simply not enough plastic available for recycling because most of it goes to energy recovery. A dominance of energy recovery over recycling is not acceptable in the medium-term…...

European Commission:
The big challenge is to reduce the amount of waste that is sent for incineration which could be recycled instead. In the UK there is a decrease in the proportion of waste that is going to landfill, which is good, but this is still a high proportion of the total waste…To solve this, the UK should look to reuse and recycling and not to over capacity of incineration – Countries like Denmark and Switzerland are burning much more than they should and that’s not good. There is an opportunity for the UK to take positively; I hope they will move in the right direction

Envionmental Consultancy Sources

Eunomia:
It will be appreciated that AD sits above incineration in the waste hierarchy, which presents a certain irony as many current local authority residual waste contracts disincentivise food waste collection and AD...Introducing food waste collection reduces the tonnage of waste which needs to be sent for residual treatment. Many waste collection authorities (WCAs) have no incentive to offer such collections due to the fact that waste disposal authorities have clauses within contracts for the management of their residual waste stream which state that if they supply less than a guaranteed minimum tonnage (GMT) to the contractor, they risk having to pay for the shortfall in waste delivered. This means that once residual waste falls below a certain level, the marginal benefit from avoiding disposal becomes, potentially, zero... It will be appreciated that AD sits above incineration in the waste hierarchy, which presents a certain irony as many current local authority residual waste contracts disincentivise food waste collection and AD...

Eunomia:
At the local level, there are a number of local authorities in England who are already in a situation where the options for additional recycling are constrained by contracts they have entered into with companies regarding incineration of residual waste.

Mike Brown, Eunomia Managing Director:
Most local authorities that started incinerator projects, often with government PFI support, did so with a clear commitment to burn only what couldn’t be recycled, but then found themselves tempted by a business case that stacked up better for a big plant than for a small one. Once the incinerator is built, they have to keep it supplied and rapidly the economic logic of return on investment trumps concerns about recycling.

Phillip Ward, Resource Futures Non-executive Chair:
black bag waste is not a single material. Resource Futures are the holders of comprehensive information about its composition and their study – published by Defra – shows that it is largely made up of regular recyclable materials and much of it is non-combustible.

Academic Sources

Professor Nicky Gregson, Durham University:
...there is a distinct trade-off. The areas with higher levels of incineration have the lowest recycling rates.

Other Sources

Peter Høngaard Andersen, Director of Innovation Fund Denmark:
Denmark is very, very bad (regarding) reusable plastic, and that is because, for many years, we have burned our waste using incinerator plants...

Green Alliance:
Landfill bans are not a silver bullet however and to avoid landfill bans simply leading to an increase in incineration of residual waste, it is important to introduce them with supporting policies that develop collection and recycling systems. The Waste (Scotland) Regulations provide an instructive example of a well-targeted package of measures that includes landfill and incineration bans.

Institution of Civil Engineers:
In the waste hierarchy, recovery through thermal treatment is below recycling. This suggests waste should only be recovered where it is not possible to recycle. As such, efforts to decrease the amount of waste produced and to increase the amount of recycling could be affected by the drive to develop EfW

Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) :
Energy incentives must not be allowed to distort re-use and recycling markets for waste. Too much thermal capacity is highly likely to have an adverse impact on recycling rates; this can be seen with the current competition for feedstock from underutilised European plant. An approach similar to that taken in Scotland may be appropriate, ensuing that recyclable materials are as far as possible recovered for recycling prior to waste being incinerated…there is a need to ensure that only truly residual waste is used [for incineration]...

Novamont SpA , Bioplastic manufacturer:
Experiences from Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany where today recycling has plateaued and excess incineration capacity exists leading to significant cross border transfer of residual waste at low costs show that high levels of incineration not only hinders recycling at a local level but in other countries as well.”

Wood Panel Industries Federation:
Current biomass energy generation policies are undermining this principle by subsidising energy generators to burn not only waste wood that could be reused by wood processors but also virgin timber that could been processed and recycled numerous times before being burned. Unfortunately the subsidies provided to biomass energy generators offer a very significant market advantage in purchasing this wood, damaging efforts to encourage wood recycling and reuse by acting as a disincentive for segregation and sorting….It is essential that only waste wood which could not have been reused or recycled should be incinerated. Energy plants will naturally gravitate towards the cheapest and easiest material to use – namely, uncontaminated wood – unless specific measures are put in place to focus incentives (and restrictions) around the use of contaminated wood…A ban on sending wood to landfill alongside a ban on burning uncontaminated waste wood would ensure that the best use is made of our valuable and finite timber resource

Further reading