The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has said EfW facilities only make a ‘small contribution’ to air pollution, in response to a report by the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) campaign group.
UKWIN said information was supposed to be made public for PM10 and PM2.5 emissions where these reached one tonne a year, but that there was no commercially available equipment to do such continuous monitoring.
UKWIN said this meant emissions could exceed reporting thresholds without the public being told. It is calling for an incineration tax and PM10 and PM2.5 monitoring and reporting to be mandatory, as well as for a limit on PM1 emissions.
But Libby Forrest, ESA policy and parliamentary affairs officer, said the average EfW operates “well below” emissions limits.
She said: “EfW is one of the most tightly regulated combustion processes. Its emissions limit for particulate matter is amongst the lowest applied to any industry.
“There are no separate emissions limits for PM10 and PM2.5 because levels are below what modern continuous monitoring equipment can accurately detect.
“Plants do however test for PM10 and PM2.5 levels which will produce more accurate data based on individual plant measurements rather than the emissions factor cited in the report, and these figures may well be below the reporting threshold for the Environment Agency pollution inventory.
“Public Heath England has looked carefully at EfW plants and concluded that modern, well-managed EfWs make only a ‘small contribution’ to local air pollution, and any health impacts ‘if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable’.”
Forrest added that a study funded by Public Health England and led by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit had concluded that PM10 exposures related to EfW emissions in the UK are “extremely low”, with domestic wood burning stoves emitting more than 700 times more PM10 than UK EfWs.
The UKWIN report also said that EfW particulate matter released in 2017 was equivalent to that emitted by more than a quarter of a million 40-tonne lorries travelling 75,000 miles a year.
Keith Riley, partner at BH Energy Gap responded: “People that breathe in these particles are close to the ground. When vehicles emit particles, they too are close to the ground. When incinerators emit particles, they do so from a chimney that can be over 100m high.
“Therefore, even if what UKWIN says is true related to vehicle miles equivalent, the pathway to, and impact on humans is far greater from vehicles as incinerators will disperse the particles in the atmosphere.”