Stop, Sort, Burn, Bury - incineration in the waste hierarchy: independent review

Report and supporting documents relating to the Independent Review of the Role of Incineration in the Waste Hierarchy in Scotland.

8 Overall Conclusions

Based on the evidence considered by the Review, its conclusions are:

1. Avoiding residual waste generation is vital and Scotland needs to do even more than it is already.

2. Properly regulated incineration has an important role to play as part of the waste hierarchy in managing Scotland's unavoidable, unrecyclable residual waste in a sanitary manner.

3. The demand for this capacity is currently growing, so the supply is rightly planned to grow too. However, the planned supply will, in all scenarios modelled, be more than Scotland will need in 4-5 years' time to (at least) 2050.

4. The locations of operational and planned incineration facilities have emerged organically and are not necessarily in the right places strategically. This is a particular issue for rural and remote communities, whose waste may need to be transported significant distances as a result.

5. Whilst it is too late for the location of these incineration facilities, future waste capacity of any kind should be placed more strategically.

6. All forms of residual waste treatment pose risks to human health and the environment, so all need to be properly regulated to manage those risks. There is no compelling evidence that incineration is any worse than the other options when this is done. Indeed, with current stringent emissions standards, the evidence is that the air quality impacts are probably small.

7. However, given the risks that incineration poses to human health and the environment, and the risk of lock-in, Scotland should not construct more capacity than it needs and only some of the currently planned capacity should be built.

8. Communities deserve more authentic and committed engagement from local authorities and industry than is currently sometimes the case. This includes making more data more accessible.

9. Incineration releases greenhouse gases, but the current reporting does not identify either the total or the 'climate-relevant' amount. This needs to change.

10. Incineration is currently less climate damaging than landfill. However, the growth of incineration, changes to waste composition and wider decarbonisation will make incineration less favourable over time, which if unaddressed will have implications for Scotland's net zero ambitions.

11. Stopping plastic from being incinerated is the quickest and most reliable route to reduce the carbon impact of incineration.

12. Combined Heat and Power and Carbon Capture, Use and Storage both could play a decarbonising role for some incineration facilities in the longer term, but given their respective challenges should not be relied on.

13. Resource and waste management is a complex system with many interdependencies. Navigating it successfully to meet Scotland's targets on this and on net zero will require a strategic approach with all stakeholders.

14. Data gaps and a lack of central modelling capacity are hindering progress in resource and waste management policy and practice.



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