York Residents Against Incineration

A story appearing in the Private Eye describes how lax enforcement allows incinerator operators to get away with polluting.

The official line is “modern incinerators are clean”. The need to meet stringent EU emissions guidelines has forced UK incineration companies to clean up their acts. The Health Protection Agency has given them a thumbs-up, so nevermore can pollution be used to justify refusing permission to build an incinerator.

The truth is, of course, far more complex. As we’ve written elsewhere on this site, a lot of incinerators are not well run. And thanks to an industry insider, the Private Eye article sheds more light on quite how shoddy the industry practices can get.

Regulations in the USA require continuous monitoring of emissions of PM2.5 at incinerators – that’s pollution which consists of particles less than 2.5 microns (0.0025mm) in diameter. These measures came in despite protests by incineration companies because medical studies showed clearly the dangers posed by PM2.5 pollution.

Here in the UK, PM2.5 pollution is only measured once a year, and on a date decided by the incinerator operator. This allows the operator to manipulate the type and amount of rubbish being burnt at the time, and the temperature acheived in the process at the time. Worse, if the test is failed there is no requirement to inform the Environment Agency, provided a subsequent test is successful.

There are 62 monitoring stations in the UK which continuously measure PM2.5s. None of them is anywhere near an incinerator.

The upshot is a brilliant arrangement for the incineration companies – the guidelines allow them to sail through the planning process, and once through, slack monitoring and enforcement give them the license to pollute.

This article appeared in Private Eye #1311.

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