Monthly Archives: July 2014

Why China must say NO to incineration

This week we received an email from a stop the incinerator campaigner in China asking if we could help publicise their campaign.

The people of Hangzhou city in the Zhejiang province are facing a plan to build a waste incinerator which will burn 3000 tons of rubbish a day (over a million tons a year).

If you’ve found it tough campaigning against an incinerator in the UK, spare a thought for our brothers and sisters in China.

Like England, there is not enough emphasise on recycling in China.

msw Hangzhou cityOver 90% of the rubbish in Hangzhou does not need to be burned and could be treated through less harmful means than incineration such as recycling, re-use, composting or anaerobic digestion.

This chart is taken from a report on waste in Hangzou City, which states there are already 4 incinerators in the city and no composting facilities. In China as a whole the number of incinerators went up from 66 in 2007 to 109 in 2011, whilst only 4 composting facilities were built in the same period.

In this article below you will see that, ‘local authorities say the project will not go ahead without public support’.  I’m sure this statement is familiar to incinerator campaigners around the world!

bbc china incinerator protest may 2014

Over the five years we have been campaigning against the South London Incinerator, we have faced lies, misinformation and deceit.

Although the local council have done their best to keep the incinerator plans out of the public eye, we have at least been able to protest against it.

In a country where free speech can be difficult, we offer our good wishes and support to those fighting against waste incinerators in China.

reuters china incinerator may 2014

The Chinese authorities, like ours, admit that air pollution is dangerous but claim waste incinerators are safe. They also claim that incineration is being used all over Europe and America and so it must be a good thing.

Here are our top three reasons why China must NOT choose waste incineration.

If nothing bad is coming out there would be no need for a chimney.
A report from the department of health states that there are no safe levels of air pollution. No matter how little they claim incinerators pollute the air, the fact is incinerator emissions will kill people.

These toxic emissions get in to our bodies and in to the food chain, which means even if you are not close enough to breathe in the poisons directly you could be eating food that has been contaminated.

Once these dioxins are in our bodies we cannot get rid of them and they build up over time.  Only the smallest amount is needed to cause harm to the body which can result in cancers and birth defects.

For more information see the British Society for Ecological Medicine report on The Health Effect of Waste incinerators and the Friends of the Earth report, Incineration and Health Issues.

The rubbish will not be properly sorted before it is burned. This means they have no real idea what goes in the furnace and up the chimney.

This can have dangerous consequences like the explosion at Viridor’s Lakeside Incinerator near Heathrow.

Even if the incinerator is carefully monitored, it doesn’t guarantee anything will be done.

The South London Incinerator is allowed to exceed emission limits for up to four hours at a time before it shuts down.

There is nothing to stop it breaching emission levels for 3 hour and 59 minutes over and over again every day.

One waste Incinerator in Dumfries, Scotland, breached emission limits more than 200 times from 2009 until July 2013 when it burned down.

No matter how closely you monitor the emissions, once they are in the air it is too late. You cannot take back air pollution or the harm that is causes.

Waste incinerators can only do one thing and that is burn rubbish. This makes them inflexible to any changes in future waste needs and also encourages more rubbish to feed the furnace.

Birmingham council have recognised this fact and are looking for a more flexible solution to the waste incinerator they have been using.

EFW’s (incinerators) can charge the most per tonne compared to other forms of waste treatment.

An MRF (Material Recovery Facility) is where the rubbish is properly sorted. Not only is this the cheapest option it also creates 10 times more jobs and means the full value can be extracted from the rubbish.

Put simply, only once you have sorted the rubbish do you know what you need to do with it – whether that’s turning it in to a new product or putting it in to IVC (In vessel composting) or AD (Anaerobic Digestion) both of which can create energy and produce an inert product at the end – compost.

With 90% of all rubbish being recyclable or re-usable at the very least we would have to burn a considerably smaller amount than is being suggested at the moment.

The fact that Europe and America have waste incinerators is often cited as a reason why we should have them. Whilst this is spurious reasoning, both Europe and America are now turning their backs on waste incineration.

San Francisco is heading towards zero waste, The French Environment minister recently called for a stop on waste incineration and all studies are now pointing towards an over-capacity of waste treatment facilities in both the UK and Europe.


Incineration is a Costly Mistake

The South London Press ran two articles on the incinerator last week, one was about Shasha Khan’s legal challenge and the other about the lack of back-up plan should the Judicial Review be successful.

south london press 18th july 2014 david dean

In Birmingham, the council are urged not to repeat their incinerator mistake as their 25 year contract comes to an end.

birmingham incinerator news

And this piece shows how much money councils are prepared to throw away in pursuit of waste incineration.

BBC barnfield incinerator 21st july 2014


DEFRA cling to outdated thinking

DEFRA’s PFI funding for incinerators started in the late nineteen nineties.  Using inaccurate data they made predictions about future waste arisings and decided waste incineration was the solution to landfill.

In 2014 they still cling to an outdated plan conceived in 1995.

Whilst the Public Accounts Committee meeting does get a litte dull, the opening exchange between the chair of the committee and the DEFRA Permanent Secretary is worth watching.  It reminded me a little bit of Cllr Fenwick’s nonsensical defence of the incinerator at the planning meeting where he voted for it.

The inconsistency in waste stream data was recognised by A House of Lords Select committee on Science and Technology in 2008. They looked in to the waste hierarchy and the complexities of waste reduction and found that there are huge gaps in the data available for waste production and concluded: “We are not satisfied that the Government are giving a high enough priority to the collection of data on waste. Targets and policies to reduce waste are meaningless if they are not based upon a thorough understanding of the waste streams involved.”


Waste Treatment Over Capacity

Not only is the Beddington Lane Incinerator being built with a capacity that is larger than is needed (simply to make Viridor more money), the problem of over capacity in Europe is due to become a problem in the UK too.

The recent report from Eunomia confirms that without any change in residual waste quantities, there would be overcapacity of 14.3 million tpa if the 20.8 million tpa of waste treatment capacity that has planning consent reaches financial close and subsequent operation.

Planning consent is being sought for a further 4.1 million tpa of waste treatment capacity; and a further 0.5 million tpa of residual waste treatment capacity is currently
in appeal following refusal of planning permission or is subject to judicial review.

Overcapacity has been given as a reason by Eric Pickles in refusing planning consent for incinerators in Twinwoods, Bedfordshire, and Middlewich in Cheshire.  Which begs the question why does that argument not apply to all other incinerators?

The cynics amongst us might suggest that the reason Mr Pickles rejected incinerator plans in Cheshire is because George Osborne lives nearby.

The incinerator came up at the latest Council meeting in Croydon where the new labour council were challenged on their election promise to pull out of the South London Waste Partnership.  You can view the relevant section of the meeting here:


Date set for Judicial Review


Following on from the most welcome news that a senior High Court judge has given Croydon resident Shasha Khan permission to proceed with a judicial review of Sutton Council’s decision to allow a waste incinerator to be built at Beddington Farmlands, on land earmarked for London’s newest country park and nature reserve, legal representatives from all sides have fixed the trial date for 9th and 10th October.

Commenting on the latest developments, Shasha Khan said, “After the initial elation of obtaining permission for the judicial review, I am now focused on raising the necessary funds to ensure our legal team (1) can secure a favourable decision in October.

“Sutton Council and Viridor have decided to pull out all the stops by hiring two Queens Counsels (QCs) and a barrister to ensure the High Court rules in the their favour. Following a meeting with my solicitors, estimated costs of £22,000 are projected to ensure the campaign legal team can put in the necessary hours for the trial. Naturally I am feeling anxious about how much is needed, but new donations are coming in daily through the crowdfunding site, bank transfers and cheques so I am hopeful the money can be raised.  Many thought the campaign couldn’t get this far but there is a belief that justice is on the side of the people, especially when High Court judge Mr Justice Collins, when granting permission, observed that the possible conflict of interest for Sutton Council, “is all too obvious”. By the same token, it is important the campaign is not priced out of justice.

“I hope people will continue donate and join me and fellow Stop The Incinerator campaigners outside the Royal Courts in early October.”

You can make donations directly on the crowdfunding site, by cheque or BACs transfer. Cheques can be made payable to Mr S.I. Khan and sent to: Stop The Incinerator, C/O 97 Priory Road, Croydon, CR0 3QZ.

For BACs transfer use the following bank details.  Account Name: Mr S I Khan, sort code: 089300, account number: 83302576.

(1)     Mr Khan is represented by Sue Willman and Charlie Dobson of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors and Justine Thornton, barrister of 39 Essex Street Chambers.

south london press 18th july 2014


UK Misses Air Quality Targets

Anyone who has been following our campaign will not be surprised by the headlines this week. Not only will the UK miss its air pollution targets by twenty years, London is the most toxic town on the planet!bbc news air quality targets missed 10th july 2014

Air Pollution is the unseen killer that not only shortens the lives of people but also wreaks havoc on the environment and wildlife.

For reasons we can’t fathom air pollution is simply being ignored. Although you might find it easier to breathe with your head buried beneath the sand it won’t make the problem go away.

london most polluted town on planet 8th july 2014

Whilst reducing the level of pollution from traffic is a more complex problem, there is a simple and immediate way to ensure air pollution does not increase. Stop building waste incinerators.


French Environment Minister calls for an end to incineration

Throughout this process we have repeatedly been told that Europe has incinerators therefore they must be a good thing and we should get them. Europe is now turning their back on waste incineration and the latest high profile figure to talk out against it is the French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal.

You can watch the video, or if you’re French is as good as mine then the translation is below!  All of this comes courtesy of Zero Waste Europe.

Ségolène Royal : “Je crois beaucoup à la… by franceinter

In a radioshow of the nationwide radio station France Inter, in which the audience directly intervenes, Ségolène Royal,  was confronted with serious interrogations about the French waste treatment system, the lack of recycling and current incineration projects.

Here is the English transcript of her surprisingly positive reply:

Question from Anthony (a listener):

“My question concerns household waste. First of all, I would like to know your opinion on household waste treatment in France; secondly I would like to know what you think about the absence (or quasi-absence) of recycling in France; and finally I would like to know your opinion about the incinerator project in Echillais [a commune in Charentes-Maritimes, “Western France, where Ségolène Royal comes from].”

Ségolène Royal:

“First of all, incinerators are an outdated technology; nowadays we have to move towards a zero waste society. What does this mean, “a zero waste society”? (By the way, on the occasion of the new energy transition law I am launching a call for projects so that agglomerations and intercommunal bodies (there will be ten of them) become engaged in a zero waste approach, as the city of San Francisco is doing.) So it [zero waste] means that all kinds of waste can become raw materials and [we can go towards zero waste] first of all by reducing them at the source, and then doing intelligent waste separation and finally by using waste to produce energy. This is the case of methanizers in the agricultural sector, where the waste of the agricultural production is used to produce biogas, which reduces waste and pollution- it avoids to pollute the soils, the air and the water- and saves energy because it is waste that is used for methanization.

This is also possible for household waste, especially for putrescible waste which can be transformed into gas. Today, we have an extraordinary technological evolution so that we mandatorily have to stop incineration and move towards recycling methods. This is also called a circular economy which means that nothing is lost but everything gets transformed, under the condition that the products are designed from the cradle to the end of their lives in such a way that all components are recyclable. This is a great sign of hope because not only there will be fewer costs for waste treatment, which will lower our bills, but at the same time we will also protect our planet by causing less pollution.”

Journalist: “And the incinerator project in Echillais?”

Sègolène Royal: “I am obviously against this project because it is about an incinerator. There are many much more environmentally friendly and intelligent technologies in the fields of waste collection and transformation into energy, than incinerators. “