Great Britain’s Trash Burning Habits Makes Recycling Go Up in Smoke

Date: 25 Aug 2017 | posted in: waste - anti-incineration, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

This article caught our eye about the practice of burning trash in Great Britain from the Duetsche Welle.

Highlights from the article include:

The Eunomia report concludes that if all of the planned incinerators were built, the UK will only reach a 57 percent recycling rate by 2030. That is far below the 70 percent target about to be adopted under European Union law – a target the UK government has signaled it will keep, even after Brexit.

But with the rise of renewables, such energy is looking less attractive. Building out incinerator capacity is making recycling goals hard to meet – and could lead to the absurd situation of having to import waste to feed to industrial burners.

According to a new report from the environmental consultancy Eunomia, all of this incinerator-building will make it impossible for the UK to meet its planned recycling targets. That’s because incineration capacity offers a perverse incentive to stop recycling.

According to the report, the UK is going to end up with more capacity than it has rubbish to burn by 2021, because there will be ever less black bag rubbish as recycling rates improve. That gap will reach 3.4 million tons by 2030.

To keep the incinerators operational, the UK would have to either reduce recycling rates or import rubbish to burn from other countries. And given that these plants have 20-year lifespans, building incineration facilities now locks in that approach for some time to come.

The UK currently has capacity to burn 71 percent of its residual waste. In Germany, this figure is 91 percent. Sweden’s capacity is 162 percent of its waste generation – while in the Netherlands, it’s 143 percent.

“These countries are experiencing what we’re trying to prevent happening in the UK in the future,” she says. “They have too much [incineration] infrastructure in comparison to the amount of waste.”

Don’t be like the neighbors

Eunomia is advising the UK government to quickly set mandatory recycling targets for after 2020 – ahead of EU law – so that investors will pull out of planned incinerator construction.

Our coverage of trash incineration is available here:

Portland, OR says no to burning 200K tons of garbage

Prince George’s County Has Officially Declined To Move Forward With Garbage Incineration

Maryland Moving to Cut Emissions from BRESCO Trash Incinerator

Stop Burning Detroit’s Garbage

Photo Credit: Union Jack Flag Bunting via Public Domain (CC 2.0).

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.