Rise in waste incineration “a major threat to Scotland’s recycling targets.”

Recycling week now over, Friends of the Earth Scotland is calling for a moratorium on the building of new incinerators in Scotland as research by them suggests that Scotland is to burn at least an extra one million tonnes of waste each year. 

Scotland currently has five working incinerators for household waste with a capacity of 788,000 tonnes per year.

A further six incinerators are due to start operating in the next three years with the capacity to burn a further 1,056,000 tonnes of waste a year with at least another four incinerators under consideration. 

Sarah Moyes, Plastic and Circular Economy Campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland said:

“Scotland’s incineration capacity is spiralling out of control. We are locking ourselves into decades of sending useful materials up in smoke, as well as creating a barrier to moving to a circular economy by creating a never-ending demand for waste as fuel, diverting it from re-use and recycling.

“With over 2 million tonnes of household waste generated in 2018 and a target to recycle 70% of that by 2025, our projected incineration capacity just doesn’t add up.

“The Scottish Government has spoken about the importance of moving to a circular economy, but its incoherent waste policy makes a mockery of such claims with no incentive whatsoever to reduce our overconsumption of resources and recycling rates actually falling.

“Instead local authorities are pushing ahead with incineration plans for materials which should be recycled or composted instead.

“There is no doubt that this rise in incineration is a major threat to Scotland’s recycling targets.

“We’re on course to have more incineration capacity in Scotland than ever before and it’s difficult to see how we can possibly continue to increase our recycling rates when we are accelerating towards a future of burning our waste instead.”

Figures from SEPA (2018) reported that the total amount of household waste generated in Scotland was 2.41 million tonnes which was 2% less than the previous year.

The Scottish household waste recycling rate was 44.7%. In Orkney in 2018 the recycling rate was 21.1%

Waste disposal has been a growing issue during the Covid19 pandemic as household waste recycling centres have had limited opening and kerb side recycling has also faced restrictions. South Isles Residents Campaign Against Continued Closure of Recycling Centre

Recycling not only makes environmental sense but economically it saves. For instance according to Orkney Islands Council, shipping Orkney’s household waste to be incinerated in Shetland costs £150 a ton. [OIC Recycling]

There are some differences throughout Scotland in what can be recycled but the basics are the same – plastic bottles, cans, paper and thin card. And of course garden waste can be composted.

Recycling is crucial but so is reducing the amount of waste that we actually generate. Lidl and Love Food Hate Waste Scotland have collaborated to launch a series of food waste-free shopping lists. You can find that here: Great Taste, No Waste – a tasty £40 family shop with zero food waste

Reusing is also a great way to reduce waste – either by repairing broken items, repurposing them or passing them onto to a centre/charity shops where someone else can find a use for them. Find out more here: Reusing materials

Some charity shops have managed to re-open and these not only are great places for recycling but they also provide a much needed boost to funds for those organisations.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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