Incineration case studies

Friends of the Earth believes that mass burn incineration is unsustainable in a planet with finite resources. A waste strategy that focuses on recycling however, creates a closed loop system where materials can be used time and again, saving energy and resources.

Examples of successful and ongoing innovative campaigns against incineration:

For more general details about our waste campaigns see our sister website:

Wyre Forest Friends of the Earth

When Kidderminster County Council approved plans for an incinerator to burn 150,000 tonnes of waste per year, local campaigners acted quickly.

One of Wyre Forest Friends of the Earth's first actions was to - along with other local organisations - set up the Stop Kidderminster Incinerator group (SKI).

SKI campaigned to get a number of key questions answered; waste is a resource so why incinerate it? Why is the plant being sited so close to the neglected but populated Birchen Coppice Estate? And why, if so many people supported an alternative waste plan, were the council going ahead with the scheme?

A successful appeal for funds meant the group was able to deliver over a 1000 flyers to households close to the proposed site, and employ a consultant to present the case at the application's planning stage. With a petition containing 19,000 signatures, (around a third of Kidderminster's population, collected at a series of meetings and a combined day of action in Worcester and Hereford) and the support of the local newspapers, SKI and their consultant took on the application.

Despite SKI experiencing considerable difficulty in gaining information about the PFI contract with FOCSA (which had already been signed despite the County Council hardly consulting the community), the Achilles heel was to be found in the inspector's report. The report stated that the plant would do nothing to help meet recycling targets as well as failing to adhere to the proximity principle. With these arguments SKI won its fight.

Bob Harris of Wye Forest Friends of the Earth, instrumental in the successful campaign, highlighted the importance of setting up a sister group to run alongside the local Friends of the Earth group, "which enabled the campaign to capture as much local support as possible."

For more information on this campaign please email[email protected]

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In September 2000, local residents from Guildford, seeking a solution to their waste problem by other means rather than incineration, set up GAIN the Guildford Anti-Incinerator Network. One of the first activities the group organised was a rally in Stoke Park, using black balloons to map an outline of the proposed Guildford incinerator. They also made contact with local councillors -addressing members of the Guildford Borough Council Planning Committee and organising waste workshops.

By the summer of 2001, less than a year since the pressure group was formed, they had addressed a huge crowd of around 40,000 people at the Guildford Live Music Festival. With this much exposure (following a special meeting of Surrey County Council Planning Committee in December 2001), the group defeated the proposed Slyfield incinerator. Objection at the planning stage was fundamental to the campaign, with over 80,000 protest letters sent to Surrey County Council. These letters made the proposed Surrey incinerators amongst the top ten most "objected to" planning applications in Britain's history.

Following their success and continued high profile at local events the group have since been asked to address councillors on Surrey's Joint Municipal Waste Strategy. They also submitted responses to SEERA (South East England Regional Assembly) and in 2003 received the Guildford Mayor's "Living in Harmony" award.

Today GAIN, funded by public donation, is an ever growing coalition of residents' associations and concerned individuals. They no longer just concentrate their actions around Guildford but are working with other communities threatened by incineration, such as Capel, Redhill, Basingstoke and Slough. Neither is their campaign restricted to anti-incineration- they are desperate to work with any administration that will explore waste management methods that do not threaten the health and welfare of residents or destroy the world's resources.

You can visit GAIN's website get an update of GAIN's campaigns, activities and timings of meetings.

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"The threat of this unwanted development has now been removed, although we are dismayed that it took Surrey Waste Management almost nine months to come to a decision, creating real uncertainty for Capel's residents," said John McCall of CAG (Capel Action Group), in July 2003 after successfully opposing a planned incinerator.

The group (CAG) formed in response to an incinerator proposal in 2001 near the village of CAPEL in Surrey. The application was given Surrey County Council's go ahead in December 2001 and was further approved by the Secretary of State in 2002. However, the group successfully argued that the County's approval for the application should go to judicial revue, which it did, and as a result was overturned in Nov 2002. The company behind the incinerator was then asked to submit further information on the proposal, which it failed to do and the application was withdrawn in 2003.

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Belfast Friends of the Earth

In 1996 Nigen submitted two incinerator applications to Belfast City Council with plans to burn 200,000 tonnes of municipal waste a year in the City's docklands. The applications deeply concerned the local residents, who worried about the effect on local recycling initiatives.

Concerned with the incineration proposals, Belfast Friends of the Earth launched a campaign to block the bid through a public enquiry. After initially raising community concern through awareness letter writing, leafleting, petitions and media stunts, the group took a decisive step building important alliances with other objectors - including the local business community and other environmental groups. These included the harbour commissioners who owned the proposed site and the Northern Ireland grain traders whose main storage facility was threatened by the burner's pollution. Politicians were also targeted and briefings were sent to all of the Belfast City Councillors, ensuring that the Alliance lobbied at all levels.

With this multi-level support the anti-incineration campaigners went from strength to strength and Nigen's proposal all but burnt out in April 1997, when the Alliance succeeded in getting the public inquiry they had campaigned for. The result was a three year moratorium on the application, after which it was finally binned.

Crucially the Friends of the Earth group had used the planning process during the enquiry as a stalling tactic (arguing that any go ahead on Nigen's application at this stage would undermine the final waste strategy due out in the proceeding three years) - eventually getting Belfast City Council to scrap their contract tendering process.

Belfast Friends of the Earth's Cathy Maguire in the publication How to Win Campaign Against Incinerators explained: "The main lessons from this campaign are [to] build alliances with other interests, especially those with finances, have an alternative to incineration and fight from as many angles as you can to help to attain your objective - to win."

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One of the longest fights against incineration going on today is in the leafy London borough of Bexley. Bexley And District Against Incineration Risks (BADAIR) run a campaign that hasn't been won yet but has certainly been hard fought.

The first campaign was against an application to burn 1.5m tonnes of waste, fought under the group name BETTER between 1991-4. BADAIR was then formed in 1995. The group came together in response to a second application this time from Powergen, to burn 1 million tonnes of waste per year. The group, made up of about 12 dedicated campaigners and hundreds of supporters, has such support within their local communities that in the past they have been able to gather petitions numbering nearly 30,000 signatures and mobilise 6,000 objections to the Department of Trade and Industry.

The time and commitment spent campaigning has meant that BADAIR have needed to be very efficient at raising funds, essential to any campaign. They set up an informative website containing a fundraising appeal, charged a small fee for membership and were more than happy to stand rattling tins on street corners. But perhaps their most innovative money-making scheme, which also served as an important awareness raising stunt and lesson on incineration pollution, took the form of a balloon race close to the proposed site.

With a strong westerly wind, and armed with 1000 balloons BADAIR organised a fun day attracting about 100 people. Locals were encouraged to buy address labels that were attached to the balloons and the one that was returned from furthest away would win a prize of £100. The idea was to demonstrate how far the incinerator's toxic particulates would travel. Most returned from Northern France, Belgium and Holland with the eventual winner coming back from East Germany.

Today, despite the Powergen's proposal being withdrawn, BADAIR are fighting a new application. But with each new plan a smaller tonnage of the waste stream is destined for incineration (the current one is for about 800k tonnes) and the local campaigners fight on, undeterred and unwavering. BADAIR's Jo Livingston's says her best tip for incinerator campaigners is : "don't give up and don't believe everything they say."

For more information on this campaign please email[email protected]

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Other successful actions against incinerators

After initial local authority refusal to an incinerator application in March 2001 and after a public enquiry, local activists from Swale Friends of the Earth in Ridham Dock (in Kent) won their campaign when SITA's appeal in May 2002 was dismissed.

Residents Objections Against Richborough Incinerator (ROAR) and the Sandwich Action Group for the Environment (SAGE), happily saw the incinerator proposed by Independent Energy (SITA) in Richborough, Kent refused by the local authority in July 2000. The company did not appeal.

An incinerator put forward by WRG in Hull was refused in Dec 2001. The company appealed, resulting in a public inquiry held Aug 2002, but this was dismissed by the inspector in May 2003.

Also in Dec 2001, local communities helped defeat another proposal in Redhill, Surrey. The company (SITA) did not appeal following the local authority's decision and the proposal was dropped May 2002.

In Wrexham local anti-incinerator pressure groups approached the National Assembly for Wales (Feb 2002) with their concerns, leading to withdrawal of the HLC application in July 2003.

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