Summary - See attached full submission. England currently has an over-capacity of waste incinerators, with around 17.2m tonnes of incineration capacity. 43.8% of English Local Authority Collected Waste was incinerated in 2018/19. Much of this material was readily recyclable or compostable, and as more of this material is recycled more capacity becomes available at existing incinerators.
Incinerating 17.2m tonnes of waste is associated with the direct emission of about 9.13m tonnes of fossil CO2, which equates to an unpaid cost to society of around £740m for the year 2030 and more than £1bn for the year 2035. As a form of electricity generation, incineration is significantly less efficient than the conventional use of fossil fuels. This means that, for the same amount of electricity, incinerators emit more CO2 than a typical gas-fired power station.
Incineration wastes finite resource, squanders nutrients vital for the health of our soil, and is recognised as a 'leakage' from the circular economy. Labour's Green Recovery programme provides the ideal opportunity for a moratorium on new waste incineration capacity to remove this impediment to the circular economy, clearing the way for a sustainable approach to energy and the environment.
A moratorium would reduce our carbon footprint whilst improving quality of life - including air quality - across the country. Halting ever-increasing incineration rates is a necessary step towards achieving net zero carbon, and would also create green jobs associated with the circular economy, contributing to the just, sustainable recovery that the people of this country deserve.
We propose an immediate moratorium on new waste incineration capacity to: prevent exacerbating incineration overcapacity; support recycling; prevent pollution harming local air and soil quality; address climate change; support reduction, re-use, and recycling; and free active environmental citizens and local councils to focus on helping deliver the Green Recovery programme.
For decades incinerators have been releasing harmful greenhouse gas emissions without compensating society for the harm this caused. While power stations are part of the Emissions Trading Scheme and landfilling is subject to the landfill tax, incinerators are creating GHG emissions without paying the relevant price.
We propose an incineration tax at a rate of £10/tonne, rising by £10/tonne each year until the tax reaches £50/tonne, after which the tax would be pegged to half the rate of landfill tax. An incineration tax would promote environmental justice and would be consistent with the 'polluter pays' principle. Councils could use the tax revenue to create new green jobs, and to invest in the top tiers of the waste hierarchy. At £50/tonne, incinerating 17m tonnes of waste would raise £850m for the Green Recovery.
We also propose targets to reduce waste arising in England by 15% in 2030 and by 20% in 2035, relative to the level of waste arising in 2019, alongside targets to reduce residual ('black bag') waste in England, in line with circular economy ambitions, from 27.8m tonnes in 2016 to no more than 17m tonnes by 2035.
There is an urgent need to move investment up the waste hierarchy in general, and to reduce the quantity of residual waste arising in particular. A reduction target for total waste would provide a clear direction of travel and would support waste prevention efforts while ensuring that recycling does not come at the expense of waste reduction. A residual waste reduction target would address incineration overcapacity, and support recycling and waste minimisation efforts. A 17m tonne target for residual waste would enable investment in new infrastructure to focus on the higher tiers of the waste hierarchy.
As waste is a devolved matter this submission focuses on waste management in England