Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Letter: Recycling & Incineration 1

Letters Page Article to Sheffield Star (February 2006)
Recycling & Incineration

Dear Editor

I welcome the Star’s comment that we as a nation produce far too much waste.  However I beg to differ that Friends of the Earth’s stance against incineration is an extremist view.  It has to be remembered that incinerating waste only disposes of 50% of the problem.  The ash created by incineration takes up 40 to 50% of the landfill space of compacted unburnt waste.  This incinerator ash waste doesn’t show up on domestic waste statistics as it’s counted as commercial waste.  Incineration at first sight appears to be an ‘all consuming’ disposal method, but the reality for Parkwood residents, is that it is not.  Although ‘energy from waste’ incinerators produce energy, this is only a tiny fraction of the energy needed to make the products from the raw materials.  Manufacturing newsprint takes over two and a half times the amount of energy generated by burning it; glass 30 times and aluminium 350 times.  It is far more energy efficient to recycle waste.  Burning waste, particularly plastics, unlocks the carbon from the fossil fuels used to make them, thereby producing carbon dioxide and contributing to climate change.

Incinerating waste can hamper waste reduction and recycling.  Incinerator operators typically require local authorities to supply them with a minimum amount of waste to burn over a long time – in Sheffield’s case this is now 35 years.  Because of increases in recycling, the incinerator will have to import waste from other areas in South Yorkshire.  The Bernard Road incinerator will indeed become the dustbin of South Yorkshire.  Then we have the ongoing problem of what to do with the ash and this is a very real problem for incinerator operators.  I haven’t even mentioned the air pollution caused by burning mixed waste.  The area around Bernard Road already suffers from high nitrogen dioxide levels from road traffic and the incinerator only serves to make these levels worse.  Dioxin levels are also increased; these are very long-lived toxins, which can be deposited over a very wide area.  Friends of the Earth actively opposed the building of this incinerator and would not wish any area of the country to be blighted by these inefficient, ineffective, polluting dinosaurs of waste disposal technology.

The only way forward is to reduce the amount of waste we generate, by refusing to buy over-packaged goods, reusing cartons and plastic bottles, buying recycled/second hand materials and repairing faulty items rather than putting them in the bin.  If we recycle the rest we will actually generate less waste than an incinerator creates in the ash it produces.   87% of our waste can be recycled.  What a pity Onyx only offers the monthly doorstep collection of paper and card.  We would all recycle so much more of our waste if there was a weekly collection of our paper, card, metals, glass, textiles and plastics.  Reduce, reuse and recycle is the only direction to go in if we want a planet fit for our great grandchildren to enjoy.

Yours sincerely

Maureen Edwards
(Sheffield Friends of the Earth)

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