Research by Friends of the Earth Scotland has discovered plans to increase incineration capacity in Scotland to burn at least an extra one million tonnes of waste each year. This huge increase in capacity threatens the Scottish Government’s recycling targets and plans to move to a Circular Economy.

Scotland currently has five working incinerators for household waste with a capacity of 788,000 tonnes per year. From Inverurie to Irvine, a further six incinerators are due to start operating in the next three years with the capacity to burn a further 1,056,000 tonnes of waste a year. There are at least four other incinerators under consideration.

Scotland currently generates 2.41 million tonnes of household waste a year and by 2023 we will have the facilities in Scotland to burn a yearly total of 1,844,000 tonnes of waste. This could lead to up to 77% of household waste being burned, well above the Scottish Government’s target of incinerating 14% of municipal waste by 2030 as set out in the 2003 National Waste Strategy.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is now calling for a moratorium on the building of new incinerators in Scotland.

Sarah Moyes, Plastic and Circular Economy Campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland said:

“Scotland’s incineration capacity is spiralling out of control. We are locking ourselves into decades of sending useful materials up in smoke, as well as creating a barrier to moving to a circular economy by creating a never-ending demand for waste as fuel, diverting it from re-use and recycling. With over 2 million tonnes of household waste generated in 2018 and a target to recycle 70% of that by 2025, our projected incineration capacity just doesn’t add up.”

Under the The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, local authorities have until 2025 to divert their biodegradable municipal waste (e.g. food scraps, garden waste) from landfill, four years later than originally planned by the Scottish Government.

Sarah Moyes continued:

“There is absolutely no place for incineration as a solution for tackling the climate crisis and we must ensure that local authorities don’t rush to build even more waste-hungry incinerators as the answer to their waste problems.

“Councils are likely to be met by local resistance to incinerators being built as people will be concerned to learn that they are planning to burn even more of their waste. Instead they should be working with the Scottish Government and communities to boost recycling and composting, and help more people to reuse resources and get their household items repaired.”

“The Scottish Government has spoken about the importance of moving to a circular economy, but its incoherent waste policy makes a mockery of such claims with no incentive whatsoever to reduce our overconsumption of resources and recycling rates actually falling. Instead local authorities are pushing ahead with incineration plans for materials which should be recycled or composted instead. Instead of leaving it to the market, the Scottish Government needs to urgently get a grip of waste policy and stop any more incinerators from being built.”

“There is no doubt that this rise in incineration is a major threat to Scotland’s recycling targets. We’re on course to have more incineration capacity in Scotland than ever before and it’s difficult to see how we can possibly continue to increase our recycling rates when we are accelerating towards a future of burning our waste instead.”




Friends of the Earth Scotland believes there should be a moratorium on building new incinerators in Scotland. We are calling for a moratorium for three main reasons: incineration wastes valuable resources, incineration pollutes and incineration worsens climate change.
Read our incineration briefing: https://foe.scot/resource/incineration-briefing

List of incinerators in Scotland

Name of Incinerator StatusOpen DateCapacity (tonnes per year)
Baldovie Energy from Waste

(existing incinerator)

Dunbar Energy Recovery FacilityOpen2019300,000
Millerhill Energy Recovery CentreOpen2019155,000
Glasgow Recycling and Renewable Energy CentreOpen2019200,000
Shetland Energy Recovery PlantOpen199823,000
Total capacity788,000
Baldovie Energy from Waste (new incinerator)Nearly complete2020 – 2021110,000
NESS Energy ProjectUnder constructionAugust 2022150,000
Westfield Energy CentreConstruction to start late 2020/early 20212023200,000
Earls Gate Energy CentreUnder construction2021216,000
Oldhall Energy Recovery CentreConstruction to start 20212023180,000
Inverurie Energy PlantApplication submitted 2020*2022200,000
Total capacity 1,056,000
Binn Eco ParkAwaiting approval for increased capacityEst 202384,900
Drumgray Energy Recovery CentreAwaiting approval North Lanarkshire CouncilNo date300,000
South Clyde Energy CentreNo date for construction to beginNo date350,000
Barr Killoch Energy Recovery ParkNo date for construction to beginNo date120,000
Total capacity854,900

*While Inverurie Energy Plant is still awaiting approval it looks likely to be approved as it was included in the Scotish Government’s Green Investment Portfolio: https://www.sdi.co.uk/business-in-scotland/locations-and-commercial-property/commercial-property-investment/green-investment 

Scotland’s household waste figures: https://media.sepa.org.uk/media-releases/2019/official-statistics-publication-for-scotland-household-waste-summary-waste-landfilled-waste-incinerated-jan-dec-2018.aspx 

2003 National Waste Strategy https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20170701074158/www.gov.scot/Publications/2003/02/16445

A Circular Economy is one which keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them whilst in use, and then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.