Environmental campaigners have called for an exit strategy for incineration in evidence provided to the Scottish Government’s independent review on incineration.

The Scottish Government set up an independent review into incineration which closed yesterday (21 Feb). Over 1,000 people have supported Friends of the Earth Scotland’s calls for an immediate ban of new incinerators and of plastics being sent to incinerators, and a phase out of those already operating.

Incineration rates in Scotland have tripled over the last eight years, locking councils and communities into polluting practices for decades to come. This has forced Scotland into a system of producing lots of waste, which must be burnt rather than recycled. 

Scotland is now burning almost as much of its household waste as it is sending to landfill. Household waste statistics published in December show a 33.6% increase in waste being incinerated between 2019 and 2020 – that’s an extra 152,000 tonnes burnt in one year. 

As well as burning valuable resources, incinerators contribute to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases from the waste they burn. On average, burning one tonne of waste, emits one tonne of CO2 directly into the atmosphere. Campaigners say the simplest and fastest way to reduce emissions from existing plants is to ban the burning of plastics.

Kim Pratt, circular economy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

“It’s vital we stop burning our valuable resources if we are to bring down the consumption levels that are wrecking the planet. We need to see an end to new incinerators being built in Scotland, and an immediate ban on burning plastics.

“We need to see a greater focus on reducing waste and recycling, which won’t be the case if we have an overcapacity of incineration which will be a reality in just a few years if immediate changes aren’t made.

“The people of Scotland have been let down by local and national governments, who have allowed an uncontrolled increase in incineration of waste. If these issues are properly addressed, the review could be an important milestone in Scotland’s pathway to a low carbon, circular economy.”

To find out more read the Friends of the Earth Scotland response to the Incineration Review: https://foe.scot/resource/response-to-incineration-review/