The Art of Burning Waste
Photo: The rather eccentric looking incinerator on the Isle of Man!
In the UK we currently deal with every 10 bags of rubbish in the following way: 6 landfill; 2 recycle ; 2 burnt in incinerator. We are struggling to recycle fast enough in order to avoid more landfilling so, the government is pushing for more incineration-to-power plants. Trouble is, as usual, no wants an incinerator in their back yard. In the Bexley area of Kent for example residents have been fighting such a proposal for 13 years. A smaller plant has now been given the go ahead. To be fair new EU legislation has meant all incinerators have had to improve their filter technology on their stacks so as to emit fewer pollutants. A site in North London was closed for a number of months just so these new filters could be installed.
The interesting part of the rubbish debate is the NIMBY effect, where the selfish gene of the human psyche rears its ugly head. Everyone contributes to the weekly rubbish pickup from their front gate but, obviously no-one wants to see it dumped at the end of their road! Still, it has to be dealt with somehow and somewhere. It is also grossly unfair that poorer neighbourhoods take the rubbish from the 'leafy' suburbs. OK, maybe building these incinerators out in the countryside is one solution. Apart from country folk objecting there is the problem of getting waste to the plant. River transport is one way that will be used to get rubbish from London to the new Bexley incinerator. A mature debate is necessary on each and every incinerator proposal but it must not be allowed to be hijacked NIMBY-ism!