Disadvantages Of Incineration In Waste Reduction Environmental Sciences Essay

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As part of the Government's drive to reduce the waste sent to landfill the Government of the United Kingdom (U.K) have decided that incineration is the answer. This report will outline why it is felt this is the wrong option.

As a waste planning authority, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Cornwall County Council (CCC) was legally required to have a 'Waste Local Plan' (WLP). CCC after years of consultation adopted a WLP in December 2002. This was based on a government white paper released in May 2000 called the Waste Strategy 2000 (England and Wales). This has now been superseded by Waste Strategy for England 2007. Incorporated in this strategy amongst other legislation and directives are sections of the Waste Management Licensing Regulations 1994 (WMLR 1994). The WMLR 1994 contains sections of European Directives such as the Directive on Waste and the Framework Directive on Waste. Incorporated also into the CCC WLP are sections of the EC Landfill Directive (Now the EU Landfill Directive). The UK Government along with the other EC Member States agreed the EC Landfill Directive (26 April 1999). The 1996 October Landfill Tax had a bearing on the plan.

Incineration is governed by the EU directive called the EU Integrated Pollution, Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC). The Environmental Agency (EA) is responsible for this directive. The 1st August 2000 this directive was brought into national law through the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) now superseded by the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007. Under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) CCC awarded in October 2006 SITA Cornwall Ltd a thirty year contract to manage the county's waste. SITA Ltd would have been bound by the same directives and legislation of the WLP when deciding on a municipal waste management strategy although it would have reflected the changes in these directives and legislations. Also having an influence on the Management plan is the Landfill Allowance trading scheme (LATS) which became legal by the Waste and Emissions Trading Act (2003).

The main aim of the CCC WLP is to provide a set of guidelines for the treatment, supervision and disposal of wastes in the County of Cornwall. sent to landfill using a number of technologies such as mechanical, biological and/or thermal methods. The EU Landfill Directive provides provisions to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill by setting targets for each country to meet. These targets can be seen in Fig (1) of the appendices. By meeting these targets this will help reduce the amount of Methane gas produced which is a Greenhouse Gas, a contributor to climate change.

To help meet these EC Landfill Directive targets, the U.K government complied the Waste Strategy 2000 (England and Wales) now the Waste Strategy for England 2007, which provide National targets set by the EC Landfill Directive to increase the amount of recovered municipal waste through Recycling, Composting and Energy Recovery. These sets of targets can be seen in Fig (2) of the appendices. The Waste Strategy 2000 (England and Wales) also provides guidelines to obtain sustainability through the Waste Hierarchy (WH). The WH was first introduced in the Framework Directive on Waste. The WH promotes the reduction of materials first, re-using second, recovery third and disposal fourth.

In order for all local authorities to help meet these targets, the U.K government set statutory performance standards for local authority recycling. By applying certain criteria to the waste recycling figures in 1998/99



Waste Local Plan


Waste Strategy 2000 (England and Wales)


Waste Strategy for England 2007


Waste Management Licensing Regulations


http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/localauth/performance/documents/reviewtargetsrecycling.pdf and using the existing Best Value Framework, these performance standards figures were produced for CCC. Fig (3) of the appendices shows these standards

Legislation in place to help sway councils to reduce the amount of BMSW sent to landfill come in the form of the landfill tax escalator (LTE) and the LATs. The LTE increases the rate of 2008 landfill tax per tonne by eight pound per annum until at least 2010/2011.

LATs targets are set for the amount of BMSW allowed to be landfilled see fig (4), if CCC goes over the target they will have to buy credits of another council who have come under their targets or they could be fined one hundred and fifty pounds for each tonne they are over you can buy some

All the above make incineration a quick option to land fill for which a number of criteria have to be meet before planning permission and a permit from the EA is granted. Criteria such as the Council have to carry out a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/sectors/32451.aspx The Waste Incineration Directive 2000 (WID) requires that the heat generated is recovered as much as possible and reused. Environmental Agency Waste Directive. The building of an incinerator should be near a town or village where the waste is produced under the government's Proximity Principle Initiative. If CCC was to follow the waste hierarchy in which their waste management plan is bound by, then Incineration is at the bottom of the hierarchy.

B) The proposed Incinerator site in Cornwall is planned to be built in St Dennis. The operation of an incinerator has many risks associated with it some are well documented some risks or still unknown. Health and Environmental issues are the main risk that is associated with incineration sites. A municipal waste incinerator will burn a variety of materials from heavy metals to organic manufactured chemicals. Incineration does not eliminate the waste it changes it from one form of waste to another. The waste is changed from SMW into ash, particulates, dioxins and gas. Dioxins are known to be highly toxic, carcinogenic and cause developmental problems in unborn foetus. In 1990 the levels of dioxins released into the atmosphere from incineration was recorded at 600g of dioxins with tighter regulations and reduction in permitted dioxin emissions over the years, these levels were recorded at 2.4g in 2006. Reducing the legal limit of incinerator dioxin emission can be seen as an acknowledgment that the levels in place were not at a safe limit to begin with. How much damage to the environment and people's health has been caused in those years through these toxic dioxins emissions? The current limit of 0.1 ng/m3 of dioxin per cubic meter of stack gas, will this be found to be a safe level in the coming years. A case study concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that dioxins have a minim exposure level where a threat to cancer does not exist.

These dioxins deposit themselves into the soil, vegetation and water. Livestock graze upon the contaminated vegetation (grass) and the fish swim within the contaminated waters. These dioxins enter into the food chain through the consumption of milk, meat and fish. In Italy in 2008 Japan and South Korea cancelled orders on some mozzarella cheese over fears about the levels of dioxins in the buffalo milk used in the cheese. Allegations were made that waste incineration around Naples might have been responsible. St Dennis has farms within 10 miles of the proposed incineration site which produce meat and milk one such farm is Lobb's Farm. If the incinerator gets the go ahead it could not only risk local people's health and the surrounding environment but local jobs as well. People may not buy local produce if they feel it has been contaminated by these dioxins.

Fly ash is a by-product from incineration of MSW; this ash contains the heavy metals (especially zinc and lead) and dioxins. MSWI is defined as hazardous material, it cannot be recycled. According to CCC 7,000 tonnes of fly ash will be sent to landfill from the proposed incinerator. An investigation was carried out into the 'Long-term stability in landfills of Municipal Solid Waste Incineration fly ashes solidified/stabilized by hydraulic binders' This concluded that SMW fly ash even when it is treated (solidified/stabilized) it will encounter different conditions over its life in the landfill and under certain conditions the fly ash will leach. Further chemicals and process is needed to be applied to the fly ash to improve on preventing it from leaching. If this leaching of hazardous materials enters into the water table, nearby rivers or into the soil of a nearby farm it could cause untold damage to the public's health and the environment. Most Incinerators have a 25-30 year contract and Hazardous Landfills will be needed as long as Incinerators are in operation. Landfill is the last option to be considered in the in the waste hierarchy plan, for which CCC has implemented in their waste strategy.

Some studies that have concluded that there is no direct link from living near an incinerator and developing certain cancers could not fully stand by their conclusion. One such study was carried out in the U.K in which over 14 million people who lived near 72 MSW incinerators were monitored for up to thirteen years. It concluded that that there was no evidence overall that living further away from an incinerator lessens the risk of developing cancer, but it also concluded that further investigation is required as different unknown variables could exist that change the initial conclusion. Take the data that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has produced. It shows Particular Matter2.5 (PM2.5s) poses a greater negative effect on daily mortality as opposed the larger PM10s. Incineration produces a large quantity of these finer particles.

These particulates are associated with respiratory and cardiovascular disease but the Environmental Agency does not monitor PM2.5s so their health implications cannot be properly monitored. This poses the question for the aforementioned study, could there be other particles or variables that have not been monitored which discredit the initial conclusion.

The Environmental Agency has increased the size of the incineration stack for St Dennis from 75m to 120m. This was after an air dispersion modelling showed this height would meet the standards for preserving human health. As mentioned before incineration merely changes waste from one form to another, so a taller stack merely provides the mechanism to spread the waste and its health and environmental effects further afield. The question is posed, if the emissions from the incinerator are at a safe level to begin with, should it matter what size the stack is?

The selection of a site for an incineration plant has many criteria to be considered, criteria such as protecting the public health, property and the environment this means HIA and EIA have to be carried out. Preference should be given Brownfield sites or existing waste management facilities. Sites within 250 m of a built up or recreational area should be avoided if possible but it should be cited near a town and the infrastructure for bringing the waste should be circumvented around residential areas. Incinerators can be built on some Brownfield sites and on some landfill sites, by building on an old landfill site the infrastructure which brought the waste to the landfill can be utilised by the incineration plant thus limiting the infrastructure needed for the incinerator. Oxfordshire's County Council will be building an incinerator in either Sutton Courtenay or Ardley both are existing landfill sites.

Studies have been carried out to determine the public's perception on air pollution.

It has been found that people feel that governments and business only respond to the air pollution problem and the vast majority distrust their obligations to the public. Some feel that any legislation brought in is for the benefit of business's. If the public do not believe the government and their claims that the incinerator will not impact on their health, people may not want to live near an incinerator and this will have an effect on people trying to sell their property, so the sighting of an incinerator in an area has to be well taught out. A study on house prices during the inception to operation was carried out in America, it concluded amongst other observations that house prices fluxuated during the 'rumour stage' and that the houses on the outer limits of the perceived risk were in more demand and their prices increased in contrast to the houses closer to the incinerator.

Once The design of a parameters have been decided such as site location, type of waste being incinerated, quantity of waste, emission parameters incinerator design and technology to be used, and the permits and planning permission granted, the construction stage can start.

Good design of an incinerator includes high efficiency, it has to be sustainable and sensitive to the site. No matter how the well the design of the incinerator, it is imperative that the incinerator is built to the exact design with materials that are to a high quality industrial development if the stated emissions are to be achieved. Good design of an incinerator includes high efficiency, it has to be sustainable and sensitive to the site. During the construction the incinerator has to be constructed within the guidelines set out in the Building Regulations such as Part J (Combustion Appliance's and Fuel Storage Systems) and Part B (Fire Safety)

If the incinerator is constructed as designed the management of the plant needs to be of the highest standard. The plant will be operating 24-7. If the plant operates as deigned it will produce The Energy from Waste (EfW) facility will produce approximately 17MWe of power, 11 MWe will be classified as renewable energy generation. Around 600 Kw/h hours of electricity can be produced per tonne of waste burned. Operational incinerators in the UK regularly emit more toxic emissions than permitted. One such incinerator is Neath incinerator in wales. A result of 10 dioxin tests indicated 5 dioxin's over their permitted limit. It was closed by the


Reduction of Biodegradable Municipal Waste Sent to Landfill

By Year

Percentage Reduction Compared to 1995 Levels







Fig (1). Targets set in the EC Landfill Directive.

Municipal Waste Targets

Recovered (Recycled/Composted/Recovered Energy)

Amount (%)
















Fig (2). Targets set by the Government & National Assembly.

Column A shows the targets set out in Waste Strategy 2000 (England and Wales)

Column B shows updated targets set out in Waste Strategy for England 2007

* N.A = Not Applicable

Municipal Waste Performance Standards

Recycled / Composted


Amount (%)







Fig (3) Targets set by the Government

*estimated mandatory requirement



By Year

Amount (tonnes)







Fig (4)


Landfill (tonnes)

Recycled or composted (tonnes)

Incineration with EfW (tonnes)

Incineration without EfW (tonnes)

Incineration &other (tonnes)

Other (tonnes)

Total all disposal methods (tonnes)

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