Climate coalition calls for ban on UK waste incineration

A climate coalition including Greenpeace, UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) and Extinction Rebellion has marched this morning (24 April) to deliver a letter calling for the end of UK waste incineration as part of ‘the Big One’ climate protests in London. 

The Big One climate protest London
The letter – which outlines a 10-point action plan to phase out incineration and encourage a swift shift to a low-carbon circular economy – was delivered to departments including the Treasury, the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and Defra.

Addressed to the Prime Minister, it also calls for an end to the export of waste plastic, the radical reduction of plastic at its source, the immediate inclusion of waste incineration in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS), and the introduction of an incineration tax.

There are also several social justice concerns cited in the letter, including calls for better pollution monitoring as Greenpeace research shows that incineration plants are three times more likely to be located in deprived areas.

The coalition asks the prime minister to work with all government departments to bring about the necessary policy changes, including an ‘immediate moratorium to prevent any new incineration schemes’.

Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of UKWIN, said: “The Government needs to respond to the climate emergency by taking action right now, as there is no future in burning our way out of overconsumption. The UK is already suffering from too many waste incinerators releasing CO2 which is worsening climate change and pollutants that are harming our air quality.

“Preventing the construction and operation of even more incinerators is not a big ask. It is the very least the government can do to help us along the journey to zero waste and the circular economy.”

Further calls to the government include:

  • Formulating a comprehensive National Incineration Exit Strategy based on ‘a strategic approach to decommissioning the oldest and least efficient incinerators first’;
  • Banning the granting of new planning permissions and the issuance of new permits for waste incinerators;
  • Revoking all environmental permits for incinerators that have yet to enter commissioning;
  • Completing and publishing the ‘long-overdue’ residual treatment capacity analysis, taking into account the achievement of the UK’s targets for reducing municipal residual waste by 29 per cent by 2027 and reducing all residual waste by 50 per cent by 2042;
  • ‘Ring-fencing’ funding to help councils address long-term ‘lock-in’ to existing and planned incinerators;
  • Banning the import of refuse-derived fuels (RDF) and solid recovered fuels (SRF) from outside the UK;
  • And introducing mandatory audits of incinerator feedstock to establish and make public how much of the material being sent to incineration could have been recycled or composted.

UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS)

The UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) is a replacement for the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) which came into force on 1 January 2021, when the UK left the EU. It hopes to reach climate goals through carbon pricing while protecting the competitiveness of UK businesses.

The coalition is calling for the immediate inclusion of incineration in the UK ETS and the introduction of an incineration tax, priced to ensure alternatives such as recycling and waste minimisation are always less expensive than incineration and thus more attractive to investors and decision-makers. It says that these measures should include incineration at cement kilns at cement plants.

‘The Big One’ climate protests and waste incineration

Climate activists gathered in London this weekend for ‘the Big One’ weekend of climate action supported by more than 200 organisations – including Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion, the Green Party and Friends of the Earth. People’s Pickets were set up outside government departments across London and the programme included speakers, performers and workshops.

The weekend ran from Friday 21 April to today (24 April) and was primarily organised by Extinction Rebellion with the support of leading environmental charities and civil society groups. A central focus of the weekend was the transition away from fossil fuels.

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