Fact Sheet 3: DEFRA Submission

Below is a summary of the eighteen page report that NYWAG recently submitted to DEFRA:

The North Yorkshire Waste Action Group (NYWAG) believes that any environmentally sound strategy for waste management would reduce the amount of waste produced and maximize re-use and recycling, and treat residual waste using Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) and Anaerobic Digestion (AD). It would avoid incineration due to the associated dangers which include financial, environmental and health risks.

This strategy is consistent with the present Government’s intention to adopt a “green” approach and work towards a “zero waste economy”. This would reduce the amount of waste produced and re-use and recycle as much as possible of that waste. All sectors of society can act to achieve these first three steps and evidence from around the world suggests that re-use and recycling can account for well over 50% of waste; indeed 50-70% are realistic targets which have already been achieved by some councils in England. All that is needed is to adopt best practice.

The next step is to choose a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option for dealing with the residual waste. NYWAG’s submission addresses the questions posed by DEFRA and indicates measures that can be taken by national and local government as well as commerce and industry.

The role of central government should encourage appropriate standardisation and identify and promulgate best practice. It can also take regulatory and fiscal measures to create a level playing field between various competing technologies and to remove perverse incentives that favour incineration (which act against the Government’s stated objectives). These include more stringent environmental monitoring requirements and modification to landfill tax to include taxing incinerator bottom ash at the full normal rate (thereby increasing costs) and removing incineration (also called “energy from waste”) from the list of technologies treated as “renewables” and entitled to a Renewable Obligation Certificate.

Minimizing pollution, environmental impacts and health risks depends strongly on what alternative to landfill is chosen. There is no single best solution but we favour Mechanical Biological Separation (MBT)/Anaerobic Digestion (AD). AD offers environmental benefits by reducing the pollution load and producing useful product. Moreover, it is cost-effective. By contrast, incineration is a particularly bad choice. Reasons include the high costs associated with this technology coupled with the environmental risks arising from the greater number and toxicity of pollutants including creation of new ones not present in the original waste and its notably high greenhouse gas emissions. Many of the emissions are bio-accumulative and enter the human food chain, risking human health. The groups particularly at risk include the unborn child and children.

The full Defra submission can be found on here: Waste: A Green Strategy

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