Alternatives To Burning
So what do we do with it?
The Government’s stance, for the moment, is that Incineration is less damaging to the planet than landfill in spite of the fact that burning waste emits large quantities of global warming gasses.
It cannot be denied that landfill is lower in the waste hierarchy than waste incineration with recovery, but with researchers developing new and cleaner ways of dealing with our waste, it won’t be long before better practical solutions for dealing with our waste are widely available.
Improved recycling, and a shift towards manufacturers becoming responsible for the waste they produce, will reduce the overall amounts of residual waste. Incineration is widely regarded as harming recycling efforts, with a strong correlation between areas that incinerate waste also having lower recycling rates.
If the UK is to meet its target of reaching net carbon zero within 31 years, growing numbers of people and politicians believe we must move away from the outdated technology of incineration.
They point to the fact that incineration is worse for our planet per unit of energy as it creates than either burning coal or oil.
Coal fired power generation is being abandoned because the Government agrees it is bad for the planet, and for the communities living near them.
What is the best disposal option for the “Leftovers” on the way to Zero Waste?
Zero Waste Europe report that the best approach to protecting the public health and the environment isn’t mass burn waste-to-energy, and it isn’t landfill gas-to-energy. They cite a recent scientific study that found that, after aggressive community-wide recycling, reuse and composting, the most environmentally-sound disposal option for any waste that may still remain is a third option: Materials Recovery, Biological Treatment (MRBT) with landfill of the residuals left after this processing.
A separate study carried out for the EU looking at the the optimum methods for handling waste to minimise its impact on climate change, reached the same conclusion. That that the best option for dealing with the residual waste left after recyclables have been removed, is MBT (including metals recovery for recycling) with landfilling of the rejects and stabilised compost.
The EU study reported that MBT with landfilling of the resulting stabilised waste had the lowest impact on climate change when, compared to incineration with generation of electricity, or MBT and incineration (with electricity generation) of the rejects. The main reason for this difference is that landfilling the stabilised waste left after MBT is a form of carbon sequestration locking the carbon content away, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere by burning.
Material Recovery Biological Treatment (MRBT)
Material Recovery, Biological Treatment is a process to “pre-treat” mixed waste before landfilling in order to recover even more dry materials for recycling and minimize greenhouse gas and other emissions caused by landfilling by stabilizing the organic fraction with a composting-like process. Very similar to the MBT systems used widely in Europe, the goal of MRBT is to capture any remaining recyclables and then create inert residuals that will produce little to no landfill gas when buried. The system can also classify non-recyclable dry items for the purpose of identifying industrial design change opportunities, which helps to drive further waste reduction.A study carried out for the EU looking at the the optimum methods for handling waste to minimise its impact on climate change, concluded that the best option for dealing with the residual waste left after recyclables have been removed, is MBT (including metals recovery for recycling) with landfilling of the rejects and stabilised compost.
Some innovative scientists are also at work on the problem
The UK Government has just set up a £60M fund to spur them on. For example, a London based start-up, Skipping Rocks Lab is developing a form of plastic packaging made from food waste and plants.
Around the World clever minds are engaged in similar schemes, conscious that around eighty million tons of plastic packaging is created every year and 95% of it is binned and burned or sent to landfill after a single use. And they are finding other ways to divert single use plastic from landfill or burning.
For instance, many roads are already being constructed from shredded plastic and old tyres.
What can we do?
Local councils should introduce a weekly food and compostable waste collection for composting or anaerobic digestion.
Investment in MRBT and rethinking our approach to landfill as a possible part of the solution.
Local councils should be encouraged to reduce “black bag” waste by improving separation on the doorstep to allow for greater recycling.
Supermarkets, restaurants and consumers are already being encouraged to cut down on waste food. What is left could be fed to anaerobic digesters – rather than burnt – producing biogas and compost.
Continuing to build Incinerators discourages the development of recycling and cutting down on waste.
Burning waste is the easier, and more profitable, solution but future generations won’t thank us for taking the easy way out.
The Keep Test Valley Beautiful team is aware of the widespread anxiety about the proposed Incinerator between the villages of Barton Stacey and Longparish in the heart of beautiful Hampshire countryside.
Concern has also been expressed by people living in Whitchurch, Andover, Winchester, Overton, Wherwell Sutton Scotney and many other communities.
The future of burning waste is currently under question in the UK and other countries, as it pollutes the atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
Use the form to contact us with any comments or requests for more information.
The campaign to ‘BIN THE INCINERATOR’ is being pursued with energy and determination, but needs help with funding.
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