National Assembly Committee calls for health impact study of waste incinerators

Published 07/12/2012   |   Last Updated 14/07/2014

National Assembly Committee calls for health impact study of waste incinerators

07 December 2012

The National Assembly for Wales’s Petitions Committee has called on the Welsh Government to consider contributing to a major study on the potential health impacts of waste incinerators.

The demand comes in response to a petition calling for a review of waste disposal services, in particular of ‘Prosiect Gwyrdd’, a partnership of five local authorities in south and south-east Wales to recycle and dispose of waste.

The Committee was told by the toxicologist, Professor Vyvyan Howard, that emissions from an incineration plant were likely to contain more contaminants than emissions from a conventional power plant because incineration plants burned waste including heavy metals and synthetic plastics which produced poisonous fumes.

However, further evidence showed that an official UK Government study failed to establish any convincing links between incinerator emissions and adverse effects on public health.

The Committee concluded that the Welsh Government should consider contributing to a comprehensive study to explore any potential risks which could be associated with the release of very small particles from incinerators.

“The Committee has made this recommendation as a way to address the concerns of the petitioners who brought this issue to our attention,” said William Powell AM, Chair of the Petitions Committee.

“We recognise that the Welsh Government and local authorities need to find a reliable way to deal with the relentless stream of waste and we have no doubts that the debate surrounding its disposal will continue for some time.

“This is clearly an issue people feel passionately about and the Committee is encouraged by the dedication of those petitioners who continue to seek more efficient and sustainable ways for us to live within our own ecological footprint here in Wales.”

The Committee makes three other recommendations in its report:

  • The Committee recognises that market forces will dictate what waste technology is affordable to local authorities but recommends that the Welsh Government does its utmost to ensure that the 70% target (of waste being recycled) is met by 2025.

  • The Committee recommends that local authorities are not impeded by long term contracts in meeting the 70% target by 2025.

  • The Committee recommends that the Welsh Government seeks opportunities to support emerging waste treatment technologies that could, in time, offer a viable alternative to incineration.

Link to the petition which led to the report

Link to more information on the Petitions Committee