Thursday, 2 December 2010

Prof Paul Connett says No to incineration in Wales

Professor Dr Paul Connett Ph.D, the notable advocate of closing the resources cycle with a zerowaste strategy, came to a Cardiff meeting sponsored by CATI last Friday.

He talked of Zero-Waste as a key step towards sustainability. The Welsh Assembly is using the landfill surcharge to drive the building of massive incinerators, but neither landfills nor incinerators are sustainable. A rational policy would give rebates for waste reduction and recycling while surcharging incineration and particularly its ash. Incinerator ash is toxic so the professor criticised the UK for charging only £3 per tonne for landfilling ash, instead of £40 per tonne on normal landfilling of waste.
Each tonne of ash (from incinerating about four tonnes of domestic waste) is about 90% grate ash and 10% flyash, the latter being highly toxic. In Germany & Switzerland they put fly ash put into nylon bags and store it in salt mines, in Japan some ash is vitrified, while Denmark sends their ash to Norway! Just the UK is very lax. Connett showed pictures from Bishops Cleve landfill (Glous), the major dump for flyash in the south and south-west, where flyash is found out to a km or two, well beyond local housing. Despite an EA (Environment Agency) inspection recording in 2005 “Control of dust inadequate in Hazardous Waste Cell”, it has been allowed to continue.

The modern incinerator is attempting to perfect a bad idea, said Connett. “Even if we made incineration safe we would never make it sensible. It simply does not make sense to spend so much money destroying resources we should be sharing with the future.”

He quoted BBC1's Panorama programme on 'Rubbish' where Dr. Kraemer (Head of EC Waste section) declaredAn incinerator needs to be fed for about 20 to 30 years and in order to be economic needs an enormous input from quite a region, so for 20 to 30 years you stifle innovation, you stifle alternatives, just in order to feed that monster which you build”.

Connett described nano-particles as being the most dangerous of incinerator emissions; these ultra-fine particles take up metals and organic toxins formed in combustion and carry them through the lungs into the blood stream and then into organs within the body. He quoted expert evidence to an Incinerator Inquiry given by Prof. V. Howard, a noted medical toxicologist, yet an EA report dismissed his work as not peer-reviewed. Connett said angrily this EA writer should be fired, citing Howard's book on particle pollution and the many scientific publications he had peer-reviewed, in contrast with the EA's failure to write any report on nanoparticles.

Connett described how Zero-Waste can be approached with a series of simple steps that are practical, cost effective and politically acceptable. He praised the nine Reuse and recovery centres launched by Boris Johnson, London's mayor, at £6million, which shows partnership working between the public and private sectors.

In Nova Scotia (Canada) they diverted 50% of waste from landfill in 5 years (Halifax diverted 60%), created1000 jobs in collection and treatment of recyclables and compostables, and a further 2000 jobs created in the industries handling the recovered materials.

Connett sees 'zero-waste' as largely achieved by 2020. He reported not only Flanders' 75% recycling but also progress in Italy with 2000 communities signed up and 200 of them already reaching 70%. The Welsh Minister's claim to be leading in sustainability is rendered nonsensical by deferring 70% recycling to the long-term – not even by 2015 or 2020, but only by 2025 do they aim to reach 70%.

A questioner after the presentation said that WAG's “Waste Awareness Wales” people – who want Wales to burn waste for energy – had been invited along, but had not turned up. Not one elected political party representatives attended.

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