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Waste boss warns of need for incineration

An industry chief has defended waste incineration and called on people to “open their eyes” to the technology.

Herman Van Der Meij, director of Viridor Resource Management, told MRW that development of energy-from-waste infrastructure over the next few years was important for the waste industry and the wider economy.

Van Der Meij said Britain needed to look to countries with more developed EfW sectors, such as Germany.

“England has to look at where the rest of Europe was 10 or 15 years ago. There were the same discussions, the same issues, the same national newspaper stories. And now there are so many incinerators being built,” he said.

“I understand that the unknown creates hesitation and fear. But people need to open their eyes and look at the example of what has been done across Europe.”

He said Britain needed to catch up with the rest of Europe or it would face “a serious problem”.

“The technology is out there to make this as safe and healthy as possible”, he added.

The Times recently reported a “national rebellion” developing in opposition to EfW incinerators, citing anti-incineration campaigns in King’s Lynn, Hatfield, Invergordon and St Dennis.

Van Der Meij said: “Britain’s energy need is big. A lot of our energy is being imported from Europe, and we’re exporting waste there to be burned. That doesn’t make any sense. We need it as a country.”

He rejected criticisms that EfW diverted material form recycling, saying only that which cannot be recycled should be incinerated. And he warned that the UK had to choose between safe energy from waste and nuclear power.

“You saw what happened with Fukushima,” he said. “Nuclear power, if something happens there, you really have a problem. I’d rather have an explosion, God bless it never happens, in an incinerator.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • The problem is that our understanding of what is recyclable is changing rapidly. When Germany was investing in its incinerators it wasn't thought that food or plastics could be generally recycled. Now we know they can. And it doesn't help energy security to burn stuff and then have to generate a greater amount of energy to replace it. There is a place for EfW for stuff that cannot be recycled but we need to be clearer about what that means.

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  • "Van Der Meij said: “...we’re exporting waste there to be burned. That doesn’t make any sense'" - what doesn't make sense is for that same person to say that the UK should aspire to the same level of incineration over-capacity enjoyed by Germany, that gives rise to countries with incinerator over-capacity undercutting the UK waste industry.

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