GREENPEACE CALLS ON EU TO STOP GREENWASHING WASTE ISSUE
New Report Confirms Health Concerns over Incineration
Brussels – 27th March 2001: Greenpeace accused the EU Council of greenwash today for attempting to classify an established health hazard as a source of renewable energy in the Draft EC Directive on Renewables. The EU is advocating the use of incineration of biodegradable waste, despite clear evidence that it produces virtually no useful energy. In addition a new Greenpeace report points to independent scientific research which identifies links between incineration and a variety of human health impacts.
“To promote these toxic incinerators as a source of renewable energy is shameful. This report points to clear evidence that incinerators release toxic substances and that workers at incinerator plants and people living in nearby communities are exposed to a wide range of potential health impacts,” said Dr. Paul Johnston, one of the authors of the report. “The EU Council should not be advocating the use of incineration, they should be demanding a total phase out,” he added.
The report, “Incineration and Human Health", cites numerous scientific studies carried out in the UK, Italy, the US and Sweden amongst other countries. It reveals that, where studies into health impacts of incinerators have been conducted, waste incineration is associated with definite hazards to human health such as lung, throat, liver and stomach cancers as well as respiratory problems and heart disease.
“The limited number of tests that have been done have produced deeply worrying evidence of the potential links between incineration and serious illnesses. But it is only the tip of the iceberg. Far more research needs to be carried out to establish the true extent of the problem and to establish exact patterns of illness. For the EU to push for incineration without examining all the facts is grossly irresponsible,” Johnston added.
The scientific data also reveal that, despite reduction in some chemicals in the stack emissions, even modern incinerators release numerous toxic substances into the atmosphere and into residues such as fly ash and bottom ash, often at increased concentrations.
Greenpeace also released a letter sent to the EC Energy Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, criticising the EU for its "common position" on the draft Directive on renewable energy sources, just formalised by the Council, in which EU ministers included the biodegradable content of municipal wastes in the definition of renewables, caving in to the pressures from Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.
Greenpeace warned that it is technically incorrect to consider the burning of green waste (biodegradable waste without paper) an energy source. Green waste makes up more than half of the biodegradable waste. Its heat value is far too low to consider it a possible energy source, given the energy needed to make it burn, to clean the resulting flue gases, and to dispose of the residues (1). Greenpeace is calling on the EU Commission and the European Parliament to advocate paper recycling and composting – the best, cheapest and healthiest ways to manage biodegradable waste - instead of incineration.
“There is no place for incineration of wastes in a sustainable society,” said Juan Lopez de Uralde, Greenpeace International Toxics campaign coordinator. “To suggest that the incineration of biowastes as a renewable source of energy undermines society’s move towards genuine sources of renewable energy, hampers the effort to minimise the production of municipal waste and discourages the development of composting. EU member states and the European Commission must stop this cynical greenwash and start working right now on plans to phase out incineration,” he concluded. (2)
For more information, contact Juan Lopez de Uralde, Mobile: + 34 609 42 09 07 or Paul Johnston, Head of Greenpeace Science Unit, Mobile + 44 788 798 38 20 or Lorenzo Consoli, Media officer, Greenpeace EU Unit Bruxelles 02/ 280.14.00 Mobile 0496/12 2112
Notes for the Editor:
1) Green waste has a very low heat value, around 3-5 MJ/kg. This makes it virtually impossible to burn without adding paper.
2) In a recent report (March 21, 2001), the UK House of Common’s Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regions explains: "We do not accept that energy from waste incineration is a renewable form of energy. Even if one considers that it meets the technical definition of renewable energy, it utterly fails to meet what might be called a 'common- sense' interpretation. […] A sustainable waste management has as its cornerstone in the minimisation of waste, and the explicit maintenance of waste streams for the purposes of incineration is in complete contradiction of this principle. By classifying energy from waste as renewable energy, a signal is sent to the public and business that it is acceptable to continue producing waste because 'renewable energy' is generated from it".
Full copies of the Greenpeace report are available on: http://www.greenpeace.org/~toxics/reports/euincin.pdf
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