Letter: A wasted opportunity

The Gazette’s front page splash on South Tyneside Council’s plans to commit us to a 25 year contract for waste incineration (16th September) is a clear example of PR before fact.

The project is heralded by the Gazette as an ‘eco-friendly revolution’.  There’s nothing eco-friendly about incineration.  Despite the claim that the incinerator will ‘save’ 64,000 tons of CO2 every year, this is only in comparison to landfilling without methane reclamation.  If South Tyneside Council and it’s partners Sunderland and Gateshead had chosen sustainable reclamation instead of burning, the CO2 saving could have been considerably more, and kilowatt for kilowatt incinerators produce more CO2 than traditional gas-fired power stations.

Full reclamation and recycling also saves valuable materials which can be reused, saving more energy than is created by burning the waste and reducing the need to make products from virgin material. This in turn helps to protect fragile ecosystems around the world from pollution, deforestation and habitat loss.

Councillor Jim Perry claims that incineration helps to “increase recycling and protect the environment”, but he’s wrong.  Incinerators need a minimum and consistent stream of waste to function profitably.  Incineration contracts like the one our council’s signed up to locks us into to supplying waste to burn for decades, which means there’s little incentive to increase recycling if you’re financially committed to feed an incinerator.

South Tyneside Council had an opportunity to usher in a cleaner sustainable future without the ecological burden of incineration.

It was an opportunity wasted.

Published in the Shields Gazette.

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