Incineration sends taxpayers’ money up in smoke

Incinerating waste is costing the government over half a billion £s a year more per year since 2010, according to new research by the Chair of Surrey Green Party and Surrey County Councillor, Jonathan Essex.

He’s calling for incinerator plans to be halted to stop the waste of public money, and for it to be invested in greater reuse and recycling instead.  The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of Surrey County Council next Tuesday (April 28) when Surrey's leading Conservatives vote on a value for money review of waste services.

The money is being lost from the public purse by the loss in landfill tax, which would be paid if the waste was going to landfill, leading to an increased cost of sending waste overseas or for incineration, rather than investing this in reuse and recycling which will save more money and resources in the future.

Since 2010 there have been a large number of permissions for new incinerators, many of which are still in the pipeline[1]. If these go ahead the waste of money would be doubled to about £1 billion during the term of the next Government if the policies don’t change.

Jonathan Essex, who’s also the Green Parliamentary Candidate for Reigate, is calling for a change of strategy to favour recycling and reuse: “There are ten times more jobs per tonne of waste in reuse and recycling than incineration. Government policies, taken forward by the actions of Surrey County Council, are literally burning money and throwing jobs away.

“The best way to reduce our resource use is to create a sharing economy – reuse and reycling are not new ideas, and it can form part of a sharing economy, creating jobs that bring people together so that we can reduce, reuse and recycling our way to one-planet-living.”

“Instead of letting recycling rates flatline and closing the UK's last office-grade paper recycling plant, we should improve facilities so everyone can easily recycle more, including those living in flats.”

“We can put this resource to good use – new businesses and enterprises across the UK[2] - recreating a local sharing economy of borrow shops, resource centres that restore, repair and remanufacture, and put the 're' back into 're-tail': helping to reinvigorate not just local enterprises and high streets across the UK.”

[1]             Data collated from UKWIN ( and Defra ( shows an increase in incineration of household waste of 3.825 million tonnes/year since 2010. This represents a loss in landfill tax collected by the government of around £330 million this year.  Defra ( and LetsRecycle figures indicate that export of Refuse Derived Fuel, has increased from close to zero tonnes per annum in 2010 to 2.37 million tonnes per year in 2014. This equates to 3.15 million tonnes a year being landfilled (as 4 tonnes of waste on average produce 3 tonnes of refuse derived fuel) and therefore a loss of £260 million pounds if this was landfilled – far more economic loss if any of this was previously reused or recycled.


                Together this means that the total amount of tax lost by the Coalition Government, as well as continuing Labour’s PFI and Waste Infrastructure Grants promoting incineration, has cost the taxpayer millions each year in lost landfill taxes:

-                         £330 million on extra incineration capacity that has become operational since 2010

-                         £260 million more in exporting waste for incineration overseas.

                In total, around 13 million additional tonnes of incineration capacity has been awarded planning consent since 2010, some of which is under construction. This further diversion of waste from landfill (replacing collection of landfill gas with low efficiency power generation – at no net environmental benefit) will increase this total to over £1 billion of government funding, that the main parties seek to find through additional public sector 'efficiency savings'.

[2]    The tax dodging bill proposed by Green MP Caroline Lucas ( is vital to create a playing field for small businesses to flourish (so big multi-nationals don't just pay 1% tax). This will not just save billions – but will also enable green entrepreneurs to create jobs that you can build communities from. 

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