Stop the York incinerator

Councillors in York and North Yorkshire plan to borrow a stackof money under a PFI scheme to build a massive filthy waste incinerator in your back yard.

Even the Councils now admit that the public consultation was a sham. Hardly anyone saw it, and both options involved... building an incinerator!

We need you to get involved and stop this madness right now. Incineration is dangerous for the environment and to your health. There are better alternatives to landfill and to incineration.

Contact YRAIN if you can help or have any questions.

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YRAIN - York Residents Against INcineration
"no burner, no brainer!"
noburner@yahoo.co.uk

The Burning Issue - Waste Incineration

Incinerate OR recycle

If an incinerator is built, the City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Councils will have to sign a contract tying us into burning a certain amount of waste for a number of years. Yet at the same time the Councils want us to reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place.

Waste going into an incinerator has to include flammable materials such as paper and plastics, otherwise it simply would not burn. But those materials could and should be recycled. You can't have a successful waste reduction and waste incineration programme going at the same time.

Incineration doesn't destroy waste

Incineration is the process of converting thousands of tonnes of potentially useful materials into toxic dust.

Every year in the UK, we produce millions of tonnes of domestic waste - over 100,000 tonnes in York. We chuck it in the bin and wait for the council to collect it. The majority is landfilled or burnt in one of the 15 municipal incinerators around the country. Many people assume it has been destroyed.

But it is one of the fundamental principles of science that matter can never be destroyed; it can only ever be transformed. Incinerators do not destroy waste. They simply turn it into ash and gases. Our rubbish still exists. We may see less of it, but we still have to bury the remains - or breathe it in.

Incineration is waste of energy

According to Friends of the Earth "incinerators are extremely inefficient generators of energy producing more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than old-fashioned coal-fired power station." You preserve far more energy by reuse and recycling than you could ever generate by incineration.

Greenpeace says that "incinerators are about 20% efficient in converting heat into electricity. The puny output is a tiny fraction of the energy required to remake the products and packaging they destroy. Most of the heat generated in the incinerator comes from burning plastic and paper. Burning plastics is effectively burning fossil fuels. Burning paper wastes energy and natural resources. Energy from waste is a waste of energy."

Incineration is a known health hazard

Burning waste releases a cocktail of dangerous chemicals. Some of the chemicals we cannot even name yet - let alone know their impact on human health and the environment. The Councils’ own analysis found that this option was the most damaging to human health of all options they examined.

Some of the effects of the chemicals that are known to be emitted by incineration include cancer, liver failure, abnormal sexual development, damage to the nervous, immune and respiratory systems, as well as acid rain and climate change.

A well-designed modern incinerator can keep the levels of many of these known toxins down to a very low level if it is well run. Unfortunately the recent history of incinerators in Britain demostrates that all too often, they are not very well run at all - see the case studies page for some examples.

The Solution - Aim for Zero Waste

We agree with York Council that not doing anything to solve our waste problem is not an option. The only sustainable long-term solution is to adopt a "Zero Waste Strategy". This involves decreasing the amount of waste we produce in the first place whilst progressively increasing the amounts reused, recycled or composted year-on-year until there is almost nothing left. We will need to landfill the residue but this strategy allows us to minimise this residue to the point where there would not be any more landfill than that required after incineration.

How do we reduce & reuse our waste?

A raft of new EU directives on food packaging and recycle-ability of manufactured goods coming into force soon will help us reduce a lot of our waste. Traditional charity shops and second-hand dealers as well as various fast-emerging reuse schemes like Freecycle or Read It Swap It can help us find new homes for unwanted reusable items. Home-composting can remove between 20-30% of waste from our bins and can be done even in tiny gardens or back yards.

How do we reduce & reuse our waste?

Besides simply avoiding non-recyclable products, there are several technologies that can be employed to help us recycle more. Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) – automated waste separation for further recycling and composting – seems to be the most reasonable option, which the council has included in its consultation but only coupled with incineration. While we wholeheartedly support the employment of MBT, we do not want it to produce fuel for an incinerator. Lancashire County Council (see case study) has decided that it can meet all its obligations without incineration. It is going to use MBT to produce a combination of bio-gas and a growing medium.

Who else wants Zero Waste?

Canberra in Australia aims to be zero-waste by 2010. New Zealand’s national policy is toward zero waste. Closer to home, Doncaster and Bath have adopted strategies which lead the districts toward a zero waste future.

We can do it too!

With the extension of doorstep recycling to nearly the whole of York, we will almost certainly meet the Waste Partnership's 50% target by 2020. But we believe that we could do considerably better. With a bit of political will and ambition, York could join the ranks of the most progressive and environmentally responsible cities on the planet, reclaiming 60 to 70% of waste. Signing a contract to build an incinerator under a PFI scheme is signing away any chance to achieve zero waste for decades. Help us stop it now! Call on the York and North Yorkshire Councils to adopt a Zero Waste Strategy. It is ambitious, but it is the only sustainable option, and it is happening now all over the world.