Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The First Councillor Responds

Cllr John Illingworth, Labour, Kirstall Ward has written a very concise and well argued piece on incineration below:

When this comes to a vote in Council, and assuming that I am still a councillor, then I shall vote with the Labour Group. When people join a political party it is a package deal, and only occasionally can we cherry pick the policies we like. Some people pretend otherwise, but I prefer to tell the truth.

Before we get to that stage there will be a political debate, and here is the position that I shall argue:

1) Incineration is a confession of failure. It implies that we have given up on recycling, re-use and waste minimisation, and that we really can’t think of anything else to do with the stuff. I am particularly worried about agreements that tie us into fixed tonnages of waste to be burned, since this removes all incentive to do better.

2) I am not keen on landfill. Except for builders’ rubble and inert minerals, landfill is a toxic present to our children, which will leach heavy metals and belch methane for hundreds of years. It is also increasingly expensive. If we excavate existing mixed landfill sites, can we re-claim the landfill tax at the current rate?

3) For food (putrescible) waste, my preferred solution is to macerate and flush it down the sewers, followed by anaerobic digestion (to generate methane and soil improver) at the sewage plant. To work well, this means moving from a combined sewage system to a system that separates rain water from foul waste. I would like to do this. It would be expensive, but it would hugely improve river ecology and it would create a large number of manual construction jobs. There may be a need for these in the immediate future. I think this option would use less energy in the longer term than trying to separate and collect putrescible solid waste on a short collection cycle.

4) Clean dry metals, plastics, clothing and paper can all be recycled. We must expand the range of goods we accept, and our ability to handle mixed products to the point where all our clean and harmless waste goes in the green bin. Tetra Pak drinks containers are a real challenge, and I am not sure what to do with worn-out shoes. Residents should not need to examine pizza bases to see whether the plastic is a “5” or a “4” or a “3”…

5) Leeds could compost garden waste centrally, although we do ours locally, and spread it on our garden and allotments. We put all manner of stuff on our compost heap which supports significant livestock. Our cats kill the rodents and the magpies and crows eat the bodies. It is all part of nature’s recycling scheme.

6) For a small part of the waste stream (infected clinical waste, used incontinence pads and the like) incineration may be the only realistic option. I am unable to suggest a better solution for wet and dirty plastic bags. There comes a point where the stuff is so far gone that there may be no practical alternative. I don’t like incinerators close to housing, and a pelleted waste solution could allow the residual waste to be burned some distance away. I don’t like PFI – waste of money. This should be funded by a bond issue backed by land value taxation.

We would like to thank him for this contribution which we hope will draw sensible comment and opinion from a broad spectrum of opinion.


  1. Hmmm, i appreciate this is politics but what happened to voting with your heart not your head?

    I need a clear indication of who and what party to vote for!
    If i want sheep i will go to a farm (or after the bloodbath of the local May elections) an abbatoir.

  2. Well at least it is not the usual knee-jerk reaction of "well as long as its not here" or "well we have to do something" never mind about doing the best or right thing.

    I for one am pleased that at last people seem to be willing, for the most part, to enter into a sensible debate about this very serious problem affecting us all in one way or another.

    As for the politics well at least he put his cards on the table and told us how he would vote, he did not say one thing and do another which is a refreshing change!