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Will the council’s climate plan ambitions go up in smoke?

Birmingham City Council declared a climate emergency last year, yet they are still considering locking themselves into contracts for outdated, dirty technology that will make it impossible for the city to become carbon neutral quickly enough. 

Birmingham Green Party is strongly opposed to any extension of the contract to keep the Tyseley incinerator going beyond the current end date of 2024. Our city needs to be leading the green revolution and topping the recycling league, not languishing shamefully at the bottom.

Green Party councillor Julien Pritchard recently told local media why renewing the contract is such a bad idea; “Councils are likely to be forced to provide a food waste collection by government, which will massively reduce the amount of rubbish going to an incinerator. 

It also undermines the work of the climate emergency task force by starting to look for a new contract before the climate action plan is developed. What’s most disappointing is that instead of using the current crisis to pause and think again, the council seems to be ploughing ahead with this process behind closed doors. Birmingham City Council needs to be looking to the future, not re-procuring for the technologies of the past.” 

Why are incinerators bad?

  • The release of CO2 from incinerators makes climate change worse and comes with a cost to society that is not paid by those incinerating the waste
  • The ‘carbon intensity’ of energy produced through waste incineration is more than 23 times greater than that for low carbon sources such as wind and solar. This means that in no way can incineration be considered a low carbon technology.
  • Composition analysis indicates that much of what is currently used as incinerator feedstock could be recycled or composted. If this was done, it would result in carbon savings and other environmental benefits.
  • Incineration comes with a significant ‘opportunity cost’, because the need to supply waste for it removes the incentive to develop other businesses based around reuse and recycling.

What do we propose?

  • Adopt a circular economy waste policy – we should be promoting community sharing, reuse and recycling across the city.
  • We need community engagement and an information campaign which will explain the aims of a new waste strategy and motivate people to recycle more. If they do not understand what items they are supposed to separate for recycling, why, and what happens to their waste, they are less likely to do it. 
  • Introduce weekly food waste collections as a matter of priority, before the government forces the council to do so.
  • Look for ways to increase the range of items that can be collected for recycling from people’s homes.
  • Currently the council pays very high “gate fees” for all the waste burnt in the incinerator. This money can be reallocated to pay for new, improved doorstep collection systems once we stop burning waste.

Sign the Birmingham Friends of the Earth petition: replace incineration with better options.

One thought on “Will the council’s climate plan ambitions go up in smoke?

  1. I urge you to end the contract with the Tysleley incinerator. We urgently need to transition to a circular economy, including reduction, reuse and recycling – not burning waste and continuing to destroy the environment. Incineration is dirty, dangerous and unsustainable. It has a hugely negative impact upon air quality (causing the deaths of many people – and thousands of flora and fauna) each year. It also causes a dangerous increase in carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere. This should be avoided at all costs.
    Thank you.

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