According to the London Assembly Environment Committee, London incinerates over half of its waste, with 2 million tonnes being sent to incinerators or Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities last year.
Incineration at an EfW facility is the main alternative to landfill, said the Assembly, and with restrictions coming into play from China and with possible impacts from Brexit, it says that London needs to “carefully consider how it will manage the amount of waste it generates”.
The Environment Committee has published a report called Waste: Energy from Waste which analyses how the benefits of EfW can be maximised, with the environmental impact being reduced.
The report discovered that:
- Recyclable materials are unnecessarily going to incineration, including materials such as plastic, that it said could be hazardous to health when burnt
- London sends some of its waste abroad and to other parts of the UK
- EfW plants do not sort recyclable waste as part of the process, as this is seen as being the responsibility of residents, businesses and local authorities
- Not all boroughs offer separate food waste collections, meaning the food waste is being burnt instead of going to environmentally friendly processes
- London needs to decrease the quantity of waste being sent for incineration and burn less organic and plastic waste, including recyclable materials.
Environment Committee chair Leonie Cooper said: “We have got to get a grip on the amount of waste being sent to incineration. Burning recyclable and organic materials is wasteful and potentially harmful and as London is expected to grow, we urgently need to reduce the amount being sent for incineration and to separate out useful materials.
“Energy from Waste does have its benefits in generating heat and power, but, along with exporting waste elsewhere and sending waste to landfill, this should really be an option of last resort.”