If a demonstration was needed of who calls the tune for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, you couldn’t get better than Friday’s performance of TPA spokesperson Emma Boon on Sky News. She was interviewed alongside Green Party spokeperson Darren Johnson, where she parroted Eric Pickles’ line on weekly bin collections. The right-wing TPA, which claims to be independent and fight against government profligacy, quite happily supports Pickles’ plan to throw hundreds of millions of pounds at councils already running fortnightly collections, to pay them to run weekly bin collections.
For a political party and a lobby organisation that claim to be anti waste, they seem to be awfully fond of it.
Boon even repeated Pickles’ claim that “bin collection is one of the few visible things Council tax payers get for their money”, which isn’t an argument for weekly bin collections, but a demonstration of how dishonest their position is. We don’t pay for services to be ‘visible’, we pay for jobs to get done.
The additional claim that this was a fight-back against Euro diktat would be laughable, if these spoiled goods weren’t making or influencing government policy.
However, both Pickles and his TPA puppet Boon have failed to lay the blame for any of the costs of waste disposal at the door of the manufacturers and retailers. If packaging was reduced and a system of reuse of glass containers were introduced then waste going into the recycling stream would be reduced, and landfilling and incineration of contaminated recyclables would be cut.
Despite this blog post title, this story really isn’t about confirmation that the TPA is a Tory black ops PR front. That’s pretty much settled. The real story is in how we deal with our waste. Instead of a rational approach to finding a waste solution, Pickles has decided to appeal to the lowest common denominator: Tory voters.
Darren Johnson argued on SKy News that fortnightly bin collections in conjunction with smaller weekly food waste collections presented a more sustainable and less costly alternative. Organic waste collections means composting, and methane can be extracted for energy use, instead of wasting a resource in incinerators and landfill.
Fatty Pickles has £250m to waste on this rabble-rousing folly: he’s literally throwing money in the bin, and the TaxPayers’ Alliance is cheering him on. Imagine if he instead had decided to invest it in finding a sustainable zero-waste solution, he might have actually gone some way in achieving something useful.
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.
Fiona Brown’s wild claim that waste incineration is a “more environmentally friendly option than landfills” (£1.6billion plan to burn our rubbish, 29th January) cannily avoids a key point – incineration is not ‘environmentally friendly’.
Incinerators under the euphemistic title of ‘energy from waste’ belch out more greenhouse gas emissions than gas-fired power stations. The waste burning process also produces smoke, gases and ash containing toxic chemicals that have been linked with several cancers, all whilst destroying useful material.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle makes more sense – it uses less energy and produces less carbon dioxide emissions than is generated by burning waste – because it means making fewer new things from raw materials. As if those benefits aren’t good enough, there’s an added bonus that the construction of recycling infrastructure is quicker and cheaper than building incinerators.
We should be moving towards a zero waste culture, reducing the waste produced in the first place, maximising the range of products that are reused and expanding the possibilities of recycling. Resorting to the lazy and dirty dinosaur of incineration provides none of these opportunities.
Our planet’s resources are finite – it makes no sense to send them up in smoke.
The Journal Editorial’s bald support for waste incineration (Journal, 9th August) raises the fiction that technology has miraculously made waste burning safe. Those who ran the Byker incinerator may have made similar claims.
There is no such thing as safe waste incineration, and there is no such thing as a safe level of pollution. Killer chemicals known as dioxins are produced by waste incineration and have been linked to breast and testicular cancers. An US Environmental Protection Agency study estimated that as many as 7% of all cancers are caused by dioxins, and British research has linked dioxins to the rapid rise of the painful disease endometriosis among women.
Not only do incinerators spew out poisonous clouds, but once the waste is burned the remaining toxic slag still has to be buried in a landfill, presenting further risk to public health.
Added to this is the rising threat of climate change. Incinerators, no matter how green you try to paint them with cynical euphemisms about ‘energy recovery’, produce CO2 – and tons of it. There are safer and cheaper methods of recovering value from waste without burning it.
Incineration is outdated, dangerous and unsustainable – it must be stopped.
The statement from Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside councils (Plan for Incinerator Sparks Anger, 10th August) over the Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy would have us believe that technology has miraculously made waste burning safe, as if incinerators benignly puff out pixie dust and petals.
Perhaps when the infamous Byker incinerator was first proposed, it’s backers boasted with equal confidence about technology under the “strictest health controls”.
There is no such thing as safe waste incineration, and no such thing as a safe level of pollution. Chemicals known as dioxins produced by waste incineration have been linked to breast and testicular cancers. A US Environmental Protection Agency study estimated that as many as 7% of all cancers are caused by dioxins, and British research points to dioxins for the rapid rise of the agonising disease endometriosis among women. Research on childhood cancer ‘hotspots’ near municipal incinerators makes a sobering read.
Not just spewing out toxic clouds, once the waste is burned the remaining slag and fly ash, designated as ‘hazardous’ in the councils’ own waste strategy document, still has to be buried in landfill, presenting further risk to public health.
In terms of climate change, incinerators, no matter how green their supporters try to paint them with cynical euphemisms about ‘energy recovery’, belch out tons of CO2.
There are safer and more sustainable methods of recovering value from waste without burning it. I would urge everyone who cares about a clean future to tell the council – say no to incineration.