I congratulate Mrs Hodgson on securing this important debate.
Research shows that the PM2.5 emitted by incinerators can penetrate deep into our lungs and impair lung function. The taskforce for lung health has stated that
“exposure to PM2.5 can cause illnesses like asthma, COPD, coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer”.
I therefore echo the concerns of colleagues that incinerators may put the health of local residents at risk.
Unfortunately, however, that is only half the story in my constituency. As I mentioned in my maiden speech, the UK’s leading university for sport, Loughborough University, sits at the heart of my constituency and is home to a variety of world-class sport programmes. As its reputation for sporting excellence has grown and it has gained international recognition, the university has invested heavily in its sports infrastructure so it can continue to attract and train the best athletes from around the world. The university also plays host to international Olympic and Paralympic teams, which come to take advantage of its unique facilities. The university is a jewel in the crown of the United Kingdom.
I understand that the average resting human breathes approximately 5 to 6 litres of air per minute. However, a typical endurance athlete may breathe around 150 litres a minute, and some world-class athletes may breathe 300 litres a minute. That increased ventilation means that elite athletes are far more susceptible to respiratory problems such as asthma. Colleagues will therefore be shocked to learn that planning permission has been granted for an incinerator to be built in proximity to the university and its sport facilities. It is simply unacceptable for people who breathe up to 60 times more air per minute than the general public do, and who are more susceptible to respiratory problems, to be put at risk in that way.
The World Health Organisation’s air quality guideline values are based on general ambient air concentrations and do not take into account the impact of physical activity, exercise, sports participation, or elite athlete training or competition. More research therefore needs to be undertaken into the impact of incinerators on those who participate in sporting activities.
I am also concerned about the impact of incinerators on the environment and the Government’s commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The Government’s own statistics show that in 2017, 4% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions were from waste management. Although I appreciate that some may consider that a small amount, if we are to achieve the target that we have set, we must work to reduce emissions from all sources. I agree with Wera Hobhouse on that.
The Government have published a policy paper on how we can preserve material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy in England. As we are actively encouraging individuals and companies to recycle more and produce less waste, in time we will become less reliant on incinerators, and there will not be enough waste to keep existing incinerators open, let alone justify building new ones. Leicestershire is already a top-performing waste disposal authority with respect to recycling and composting, so there is clearly not enough commercial and industrial residual waste locally to keep the new incinerator in my constituency going. Therefore, waste will inevitably be brought in from afar by road, leading to increased vehicle emissions around the M1 and A512, and creating further pollution in our area.
It is clear that a moratorium should be placed on the building of new incinerators. That moratorium should be extended to those that have been granted planning permission but not yet built, such as the one in my constituency, because they are a barrier to reducing emissions and achieving a circular economy. More research also needs to be undertaken to better understand their impact on people with higher activity levels.