Waste incinerator issues…

Some interesting but scary quotes from: ‘The Health Effects of Waste Incinerators – 4th Report of the British Society for Ecological Medicine (Second Edition June 2008)’


‘Incineration has been reported to be more expensive than alternative waste strategies even when health costs are not considered. A recent document from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the disposal costs to process a tonne of waste would be £50-80 for incineration compared to £30-40 for aerobic digestion. These costs include high transportation costs and the equivalent figure for England would be £20-30 lower per tonne (making it approx £25-55 per tonne for incineration and £5 per tonne for aerobic digestion). The capital costs of aerobic digestion would be about half that of incineration.’ (p.39)

‘The health costs of incineration are huge. A 1996 report by the European Commission suggested that for every tonne of waste burnt there would be between£21 and £126 of health and environmental damage, meaning that a 400,000 tonnes per year incinerator would cost the tax-payer between £9,000,000 and £57,000,000 per year.’ (p.41)

‘A 400,000 tonne per year incinerator would produce about 24,000kg (24 tonnes) of particulates per year and the DEFRA estimate of health costs would be £941,000 per annum.’

‘The incineration of waste produces a large amount of ash, amounting to 30% of the weight of the original waste; 40-50% of the volume of compacted waste. This is important as landfill sites are becoming less and less available so there is an urgent need for a workable alternative. It is clear that incineration will not solve the landfill problem since it can only reduce the bulk by just under half.’ (p.42)

‘Incinerators produce two types of ash, bottom ash and fly ash, sometimes called air pollution control (APC) residues. The latter is highly toxic and listed as an absolute hazardous substance in the European Waste Catalogue. It has high concentration of heavy metals and dioxins. Many substances such as metals have little toxicity before incineration but become hazardous once converted to particulates or fine particles in the ash. In fact, the combination of pollutants in the fly ash can amplify the toxicity. Using a biological test, researchers found that the toxicity in fly ash was five times greater than could be accounted for by the content of dioxins, furans and PCBs. There is a basic problem with modern incinerators. The less air pollution produced, the more toxic the ash.’ (p.43)

‘Fly ash needs to be transported away from the incinerator and this can involve lengthy journeys. These represent an important hazard. An accident could potentially make an area uninhabitable, as happened at Times Beach, Missouri, due to dioxincontaminated oil. These potential costs have yet to be factored into the cost calculations of incinerators.’ (p.43)

Why am I reading this anyway (by the way, i’ve only skimmed through the ‘costs’ section and was a bit put off by the length of the whole document!)? I’ve just been to the public consultation event for the proposed incinerator just south of Gloucester and wanted to get a non-industry view first! Look out for my review of the event when I get around to posting it.



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