Incineration booming as Hertfordshire sees 12 per cent increase in waste being burnt

The offices of Hertfordshire County Council.

The offices of Hertfordshire County Council. - Credit: Archant

Herts County Council is sending more and more waste to be burnt by incinerators.

In 2016-17, 36.7 per cent of the total amount of waste the county produces was being sent to be burnt to produce energy, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

This is the same process, known as Energy for Waste (EfW), which will be used at a massive incinerator plant being proposed for a site north of Harpenden.

The campaign group United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) launched a report recently, saying incinerators produce particulate matter, which affected people’s cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

National coordinator for UKWIN Shlomo Dowen said: “Unfortunately councils are reacting too slowly to the growing public demand for more recycling and less incineration.

“Across the UK there is more than 19m tonnes of residual waste treatment capacity operational or under construction, but forecasts indicate by 2030 there will only be around 10 million tonnes of residual waste available for treatment.

“This means that we are already facing an overcapacity of incineration that is harming recycling. The real choice is not between incineration and landfill, but between incineration and recycling.”

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The 36.7 per cent this year continues an upward trend for incineration in the county: In 2014-15, 24 per cent of our waste went to incineration and in 2015-16, it was 31 per cent.

The council has been steadily reducing the amount which has gone to landfill, going from 140,012 tonnes in 2014-15 to 58,965 in 2016-17.

A Herts County Council spokesperson said: “The council uses a number of facilities for the disposal of residual waste. This includes Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs) and landfill sites.

“We are continuing to reduce the proportion of residual waste which is sent to landfill where possible, instead using ERFs, creating electricity and pushing waste up the waste hierarchy.

“All ERFs have to be operated to meet stringent air quality and emission regulations to safeguard human health and the environment and are closely monitored and regulated by the Environment Agency.”