Household waste statistics published (7 December) show a 33.6% increase in waste being incinerated between 2019 and 2020 – that’s an extra 152,000 tonnes burnt in one year. Environmental campaigners have said this is a concerning development.
Related story: Increase in Orkney Kerbside Recycling in 2020
Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) have reacted to the figures.
Kim Pratt, circular economy campaigner at FoES said:
“It is evident from the new data that Scotland has a huge incineration problem, which is currently increasing unchecked. This is unacceptable because burning waste contributes directly to climate change and valuable materials are lost to our economy.
“This rapid rise in incineration must be stopped. The independent review currently being conducted into incineration must provide the Scottish Government with an exit strategy from incineration. Unless Scotland can keep materials cycling round the economy rather than burning them, we have no hope of achieving a circular economy and reducing the environmental impact of our waste.”
Incinerators contribute to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases from the waste they burn. They also make it more difficult to ensure potentially recyclable material is not wasted instead, which means valuable resources are sent up in smoke. The impact of burning plastic is particularly damaging to the planet.
Last month, the Scottish Government announced a moratorium on new incinerators while it conducts a review into the practice and its place in dealing with waste in Scotland.
Household recycling rates have fallen by 2.9% to 42.0%, with 66,000 tonnes less material recycled than in 2019. This is the worst result since 2013, which could be due to the impacts of COVID-19.
A report published this year by Zero Waste Scotland showed that each tonne of household waste burnt emits 246 kg of greenhouse gases, which is only slightly lower than the emissions from sending the same waste to landfill (337 kgCO2e).
Click on this link for 2020 Household Waste Statistics
SEPA Stats on Waste Incinerated
The 606,000 tonnes of Scottish household waste diverted from landfill through incineration in 2020 was 152,000 tonnes (33.6%) greater than in 2019, and 536,000 tonnes (764.2%) greater than in 2011, excluding incinerator outputs that are landfilled.
The increase was mainly due to an increase of 96,000 tonnes (23.9%) of Household and similar wastes incinerated but also to an increase of 39,000 tonnes (86.7%) of mixed and undifferentiated materials
Household and similar wastes comprise primarily general refuse, and Mixed and undifferentiated materials comprises mainly rejects following sorting of waste for recycling, and in previous years such wastes would be landfilled.
Scottish household waste diverted from landfill through incineration broken down by waste category 2011-– 2020
For the Orkney statistics : Increase in Orkney Kerbside Recycling in 2020