More than half borough's waste is burned

Telford & Wrekin has one of the highest rates for burning waste in England, with more than half its rubbish being incinerated.

The Veolia energy recovery centre in Shrewsbury
The Veolia energy recovery centre in Shrewsbury

The figures, from the Department from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, showed that 42,500 tons of rubbish was burned in the borough during 2017/18.

This accounts for 51 per cent of all waste collected, well above the national average.

However, the vast majority was used as fuel to generate heat and electricity at the Veolia heat treatment power station in Battlefield, Shrewsbury. The council said this was more environmentally friendly than sending it to landfill.

The figures show that 48 per cent of waste was recycled or composted, while the remaining one per cent was dumped at landfill sites.

Councillor Richard Overton, cabinet member for waste collection and recycling at Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “Thanks to the efforts of borough residents, the amount of household waste that is recycled in Telford and Wrekin is now at its highest rate ever at 48 per cent.

"This has risen steadily since our expanded kerbside recycling service was introduced in 2014. Residents can be assured that recyclable items that they put in their containers are indeed recycled."

Councillor Overton said household waste that went into 'red-top' bins as non-recyclable made up the remaining 52 per cent of waste collected.

"This waste is taken to an energy recovery facility where energy is created for the National Grid," he said. "If incineration is combined with energy recovery, it is considered to be a better option than landfill. However, increasing recycling is by far the best option."

He said it was important that everybody did all they could to reduce waste, and said the authority was working with Veolia to encourage this.

"As well as promoting this ethos, we are introducing further initiatives to increase the types of recycling we collect at the kerbside.”

Tim Walters, communications manager for Veolia Midlands West, said: “It is really worth re-iterating that only material that is put in the red-top bins is taken to the energy recovery facility. By reducing waste and recycling more, we can all be part of the solution.”

The news comes as the Government announced a ban on the supply of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England from April 2020.

It reflects a growing trend towards more rubbish being burned across the country.

The latest figures show that approximately 42 per cent of England's waste is incinerated, compared to 35 per cent two years earlier.

A cross-party report, launched last year in the House of Lords, called on the Government to take oversight of the industry and introduce an incineration tax.

Research revealed that incinerators in England caused more pollution last year than 250,000 lorries travelling 75,000 miles each.

Recoup, a charity that promotes plastic recycling, said that the problem was linked to China's decision last year to ban imports of plastic waste, and restrictions introduced by other countries receiving waste from Britain.

Most plastic trays used for meat, fruit and other food are made from polyethylene terephthalate, which is so brittle that it has to be sent to specialist recycling facilities.

To improve recycling rates, the Government has announced that every home will have weekly food waste collections and packaging will be more clearly labelled to show if it can go in household recycling bins.

Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner, said people doing their best to recycle plastic would be appalled to find out it was being incinerated.

He said: "All but a tiny fraction of plastic is made of fossil fuels like oil and gas so burning these pots and packaging contributes to the climate emergency as well as trashing public trust in the recycling industry.

"The only way out of the plastic pollution crisis is to radically reduce how much plastic we produce in the first place.

"The sooner the UK government legislates to make this happen the sooner we’ll be able to stop burning the stuff and dumping it on vulnerable communities overseas."

Local authorities, responding to a Recoup report, admitted that they were incinerating "low-grade" plastic.

Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s environment spokesman, said: "The best way to reduce waste is through changes to packaging and reducing the waste businesses generate each year, including the amount of unrecyclabes.

"Critical to this goal it is vital that manufacturers and retailers also pay toward the cost of recycling. In 2017, producers only paid £73 million towards the cost of managing waste packing.

"This compares with an estimated cost to councils of £700 million for managing the collection and disposal of packaging waste."

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