The Surrey Advertiser,
Guildford Anti-Incinerator Network,
c/o 5, Orchard Road,
16 October 2005
The Guildford Anti-Incinerator Network (GAIN) was established 6 years ago and through research adopted a philosophy based on in-principle opposition to incineration anywhere whilst strongly supporting an incinerator-free approach based on high levels of recycling and composting. Our approach is not simply concerned with what is proposed for any one location.
In an article in your newspaper (30th September 2005) Marianne Cole from Surrey County Council confirms that 80% of household waste in the County can be recycled or composted. Despite this, Surrey County Council is only planning to recycle 25% under its contract with Surrey Waste Management. Surrey's contract assumes the rest will be burnt in 2 incinerators. The Government is setting higher recycling and composting targets and Guildford Borough Council has a clear commitment to 60% recycling and composting by 2010.
In 2003, Surrey County Council and the 11 District Councils in Surrey accepted that an incinerator-free approach is feasible and offered this to residents as 'Option H' in the Surrey Local Government Association consultation held that year. This approach relies on proven methods of recycling and composting and received overwhelming support from residents. Ever since, Surrey County Council has tried to ignore public opinion and bury 'Option H'.
Is this because their outdated contract is for 2 incinerators?
GAIN accepts that for 'Option H' to work investment in recycling and composting facilities is required. However, in 1998, up to £100M of Private Finance Initiative funding was made available to Surrey County Council by the Government for providing waste treatment facilities. Seven years later, about £80M of this funding has not been used. In our view, rather than holding this money back for building incinerators, Surrey County Council should require its contractor to invest this money in well-proven biological treatment facilities such as composting.
There has been a failure of democracy on waste issues in Surrey. Over the past 5 years, there have been almost 85,000 objections to incineration from across the County. In consultation after consultation residents have supported an incinerator-free approach, but Surrey County Council is not responding to residents views.
In a letter to the Surrey Advertiser (14th October 2005) Councillor David Munro, Executive Member for the Environment at Surrey County Council argues that incineration is safe and relatively cheap. However, he has failed to release the health and safety appraisals and financial assessments on which he bases these claims, despite being asked to do so in one of the five petitions against incineration residents have submitted to him at Surrey County Council in recent months.
Residents continue to have legitimate concerns over the health risks associated with incineration. This is not scaremongering and it is insulting to residents to suggest it is. Parliamentary Post Note 149 confirms that incineration produces 20 pollutants including dioxins, particulates and heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, thallium, lead and arsenic.
Industry claims that fewer pollutants escape up the chimneys of modern incinerators. These claims assume perfect operating conditions when, in practice, incinerators have a poor track record, with disturbing incidents such as fires, chimney filters being switched off and many emission breaches.
Even if the pollutants are captured in the chimney filters as "fly ash", this highly toxic material is so dangerous it has to be transported in sealed containers to a designated hazardous waste landfill site. Councillor Munro has not yet identified a suitable landfill site for hazardous fly ash in Surrey.
It is misleading to set up landfill against incineration. In another letter to the Surrey Advertiser (7th October 2005) Councillor Munro suggests that incineration is an acceptable method of reducing landfill. However, incinerators don't avoid the need for landfill. In addition to needing a landfill site for the highly toxic fly ash, which is equivalent to 6% of the waste burned, another 30% of the waste burned in an incinerator comes out as "bottom ash" that would also be sent to landfill sites.
If it is true that Surrey County Council is reserving incineration to deal with the residual waste left after all other processes have been applied, what evidence is there that this policy is realistic, and what evidence can Surrey County Council provide to demonstrate it is investing in facilities higher up the waste hierarchy to maximise recycling and composting?
Surrey County Council appears to be trying to convince residents that incineration is the only option, and that all we have to decide is which community in Surrey should suffer. We find it wholly unacceptable that residents are not being offered the feasible alternatives to incineration by those who are elected and paid to serve us.
In the forthcoming consultation on Surrey County Council's Waste Development Framework, residents across Surrey must stand together and reject the introduction of a technology, which would burn valuable resources, create dioxins and risk spreading pollution across our County. GAIN will continue its vigorous campaign of opposition to incineration anywhere and will continue to promote the incinerator-free alternatives which residents so clearly support and have a right to expect.
Chairman of GAIN