For the first time in thirty years recycling rates have fallen and experts are worried that the UK is in danger of building more incineration capacity than is needed. These waste systems are used to generate electricity and heat for homes across the UK however there are concerns that the production of incinerators may act as a disincentive for local councils to recycle waste.
The EU has used incineration for waste disposal but the UK has been slower to adopt this and is still using the traditional methods of landfills. With EU legislation in place, the UK has been forced to find an alternative to the original adopted waste disposal. In 2012 47 million tonnes of waste was sent to landfill sites compared to approximately 84 million tonnes sent in 2001. A vast amount of the UK’s waste that is incinerated gets transported to countries such as Germany and the Netherlands where it is burned to heat households. The incineration process is often cheaper than finding UK landfill sites.
Evidentially the use of incinerators had an effect on recycling, “the choice to invest in thermal treatment can hold back recycling efforts…once you’ve built an incinerator or gasifier, there’s a strong incentive to keep it fed with waste, even if that means keeping on collecting as ‘black bag’ rubbish, material that would be economically practicable to collect separately for recycling.”
The 39 incineration plants in the UK that are either built, under construction or in planning are causing concerns in regards to overcapacity. With a recycling target of 50% by 2020 and a decrease in waste and the vast amount of incineration facilities that become operational, there is an increased risk of the UK building excess thermal treatment capacity.
Sourced – The Guardian