UK incinerators failing to fully publish emission figures, report finds

Published by Manus Boyle on

July 19th, 2018

A loophole in reporting rules means that waste incinerators are failing to publish their full emission figures in the UK, a report by the UK’s biggest anti-incineration network has found.

The report, launched by the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN)  at the House of Lords on Tuesday, states that UK incinerators produce the same amount of pollution as 250,000 lorries.

The report finds that the industry is hiding their pollution levels and justifies their official figures by arguing that there is no commercially available equipment to allow continuous monitoring of PM10 and PM2.5 particulates.

The report said that the UK’s Environment Agency allowed the industry to report on “total particulate matter”, concealing high levels of the smallest particles.

The study reveals that 36 incinerators in England last year produced 226 tonnes of particulates, equivalent to no more than a quarter of a million 40-tonne lorries each travelling 75,000 miles.

It found that more than ten million tonnes of waste collected by local authorities was incinerated in 2016-17, up from five million in 2012-13.

If the trend continues, it is expected that in two years’ time more rubbish will be burnt than recycled, the network said.

The network wants the UK Government to introduce an incineration tax to encourage a more sustainable method of waste disposal, a move supported by several politicians, including the Conservative MP, Philip Davies.

“Incinerators are being foisted on local communities right across the country and yet the damage that they cause to the local environment is not fully known,” he said. “There really needs to be a suspension on new incinerators until there is better information available.”

Proposed Site Location Photo: CHASE

Irish incinerators

Incinerators have also been met with a mixed reaction in Ireland, with the potential increase in the load to Dublin’s Poolbeg incinerator to burn extra 90,000 tonnes of waste stirring controversy.

Green Party Councillor, Claire Byrne said that plans to expand the Poolbeg Incinerator would be “incredibly short-sighted,” environmentally and economically.

“We need to move towards a more sustainable, circular economy, where we minimise the amount of waste being produced and reuse as much of it as we can,” she said.

Ms Byrne said that no further capacity should be considered until air quality monitoring is extended to include PM10 so that the environmental impact of extra vehicles can be measured.



An Bord Pleanála also recently granted Indaver, a waste management company, permission to build an incinerator at Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour despite the recommendation of its inspector that permission should not be granted.

Planning inspector Derek Daly said that the project lacked “robustness” and is “deficient in relation to the site selection” in his environmental impact statement.

It was revealed today that a Cork-based citizen group has filed an application for a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission to a proposed incinerator in Ringaskiddy.

Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE) secured the costs of the legal action through a successful GoFundMe campaign, with the group’s chairperson Mary O’Leary “grateful” to the thousands of people who donated funds to support the group.

In a statement, Indaver told The Green News that modern, well run waste-to-energy facilities pose no health risk to the public.

“Indaver has been successfully operating a waste-to-energy facility in Duleek, Co. Meath since 2011 and has integrated well into the local community,” the company said.

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Manus Boyle

Manus is an MA Journalism student at DCU. He has an interest in the environment, the outdoors and live music.