Why there is an urgent need to re-use and recycle

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The United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) has launched a report that looks into the climate change impacts of waste incineration in the UK.

The 56-page report found that in 2017 the UK’s 42 incinerators released a combined total of nearly 11 million tonnes of CO2.

Around five million tonnes of this CO2 was emitted through the incineration of fossil-based materials such as plastic.

The five million tonnes of fossil CO2 released by UK incinerators in 2017 is estimated to have resulted in an unpaid cost to society of around £325 million.

The report highlights yet another way that plastic is harming our environment, with polluters getting away without paying their fair share for the climate damage that they are causing. The study says that over the next 30 years the total cost to society of fossil CO2 released by UK’s current incinerators equates to more than £25billion of harm arising from the release of around 205 million tonnes of fossil CO2.

Each tonne of plastic incinerated results in the release of around 1.43 tonnes of CO2.

According to the report, a typical waste incinerator built in 2020 would release 2.8 million tonnes of fossil CO2 over its 30-year lifetime.

Even when electricity generation is taken into account, this is equivalent to releasing around 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 more than sending the same waste to landfill.

Burning large quantities of plastics gives rise to a small amount of electricity that comes with a high climate cost.

The climate change impacts of incineration are worse than landfill.

Most of what is incinerated could and should be recycled or composted.

It is time to recognise the urgent need to reduce, re-use and recycle.

Josh Dowen,

Associate Coordinator of the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network.