Foreword from Dr Colin Church, Chair of the Independent Review
I was honoured to be asked in November 2021 to lead the independent review into the role of incineration in the waste hierarchy in Scotland. How we address the challenges of moving from a linear economic model to a low-carbon, more circular economy is a passionate interest of mine, and the role of incineration in that move is one key challenge.
As Scotland seeks to make this move, the prominence of incineration has grown. The ban on landfilling biodegradable municipal waste from 2025 has concentrated many minds, and incineration is rightly a fundamental element of the approach to meet it. At the same time, concerns have been raised about the impacts of incineration on human health and the environment. Modern plants are far from the polluting monstrosities of the past, now being required to meet stringent emissions standards to protect human health and the environment from airborne harm. But burning waste also produces carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, so allowing it to be freely emitted in the long term is incompatible with Scotland's desire to reach net zero carbon emissions. There are also concerns as to whether a high level of incineration can act as a constraint on greater waste prevention and recycling.
At the same time, the resource and waste management system is complex and interdependent. It is impossible to consider one aspect of it (such as incineration) properly in isolation from the others (waste prevention, recycling, etc). I must admit to having been more than a little daunted to be asked to do so in a little over four months! It has indeed been a difficult challenge, especially in the light of the lack of data in some crucial areas and whilst other parts of the system are also in motion. However, the Report before you now is as good as it could be in the circumstances, and I believe it offers some clear messages to the Scottish Government and all stakeholders on the current and future role of incineration in the waste hierarchy in Scotland.
I am immensely grateful to all the individuals and organisations who provided input to the Review via submissions to the Call for Evidence and through online and in person meetings. Their insights and evidence, and their willingness to share them with me, enabled this Review to deliver its report within the timescales laid down by the Minister.
Finally, my thanks to the team who supported me so ably in this task and without whom this report would not exist.
Dr Colin Church CEnv FIMMM CRWM MCIWM
Independent Chair of the Review
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