The Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) dithering over plans to launch a new study into potential health risks posed by incinerators will cause frustration and concern across the industry.
It is important to gain and keep the confidence of the public and such research is a significant part of the process. And the HPA has emphasised that its position remains that well-run and regulated modern municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health.
But it must now act fast to set out the scope and limitations of the new reseearch, and share the timescales - something it has so far refused to do. This stance creates unnecessary confusion and puts future plans in jeopardy. This is damaging not only for the industry but also for the UK’s developing national waste infrastructure and the economy.
In the meantime, the waste and recycling industry must focus on communications and engagement. It is important that the debate is not characterised in such a way as to pit the industry against the community. Waste infrastructure is vital to serve the needs of local communities up and down the country.
As Veolia’s regional director Donald MacPhail said after receiving permission for its Shropshire energy-from-waste facility: “This is Shropshire’s waste we’re handling - this is not Veolia’s waste.”
The recycling industry and the Government must continue to emphasise that waste is everyone’s business.