Incineration Facilities

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 26th June 2003.

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Photo of Richard Baker Richard Baker Labour 2:30 pm, 26th June 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it supports the development of new incineration facilities. (S2O-281)

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The national waste plan recognises that producing energy from waste has a role to play in an integrated approach to waste management. However, development of new incineration facilities will be supported only where this is the best practicable environmental option identified in the relevant area waste plan. That means that recycling and composting will be maximised and only residual waste will be used for energy recovery.

Photo of Richard Baker Richard Baker Labour

Is the minister aware of the widespread concern in Aberdeen over the plans to build an incinerator at a site in the Altens area of the city? Aberdeen City Council is still considering the planning application for that site. Thousands of people in the communities around Altens object to the fact that the proposed incinerator is of such a size that it will need to process waste from outside the city in order to be economically viable. They are also concerned about the substances that will be released from the incinerator into the environment around their homes. In light of those objections, does the minister agree that the proposed incinerator should not be built?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

The member will appreciate that, as a planning application for the incinerator is currently awaiting a decision by Aberdeen City Council, I am unable to comment on the merits of the application. However, that application, and any other similar proposal, would have to be in line with the best environmental option in the local area waste plan.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Will the minister join me in welcoming converts on this issue—given that it was the former administration in Aberdeen City Council that promoted the incineration concept? Will he also join me in welcoming the commitment that has been given by the new administration in Aberdeen to seek other methods of waste disposal?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I will not be drawn on the specific application; I think that the member would agree that that is wise. However, high levels of recycling, reuse and composting are not incompatible with the recovery of energy from waste. So, in that wide context, I agree with Mr Rumbles.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Does the minister think that incineration is the most efficient means of waste disposal?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

For the third time, I repeat that incineration is one of many options for waste disposal. We continue to believe that reuse, recycling and composting are the best environmental options, but that belief is not incompatible with consideration of recovery of energy from waste, which is better than landfill.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

The minister will be aware that there is no target in the national waste plan for the reduction of the amount of waste that is produced in the first place and that, by the Executive's own figures, the waste that is generated in Scotland is projected to rise by 30 per cent before 2020. Does the Executive intend to tackle the ever-increasing amount of waste that is produced? If so, will the minister consider introducing at least some sort of target and strategy for reducing such waste?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

We have targets for increasing recycling, reuse and composting and, as a consequence, reducing our reliance on landfill, so it is untrue to suggest that there are no targets. However, we will certainly consider all the best practical environmental options. As I told the member's colleague last week, we believe in local solutions to local problems. Such solutions are determined by the area waste plan for the area in question.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Does the Scottish Executive treat incinerators differently where they are described as thermal energy reclamation units? Does the Executive have any plans to monitor the output from those plants in response to local concerns?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I am aware of the European Court of Justice's decision on the matter. In that context, I repeat that our policy is that waste prevention, minimisation, recycling and composting should be maximised, but to meet our landfill reduction targets, we must consider the use of energy from waste recovery, which is a better environmental option than landfill.