ENVIRONMENTAL organisation Friends of the Earth Scotland has uncovered plans for the country to burn at least an extra one million tonnes of waste each year.

The campaigning group says the huge increase in capacity threatens the Scottish Government’s recycling targets and its plans to move to a "Circular Economy" - an economic system aimed at eliminating waste.

Scotland currently has five working incinerators for household waste with a capacity of 788,000 tonnes per year.

From Inverurie to Irvine, a further six incinerators are due to start operating in the next three years with the capacity to burn a further 1,056,000 tonnes of waste a year. Friends of the Earth Scotland say there are at least four other incinerators under consideration.

Scotland currently generates 2.41 million tonnes of household waste a year and by 2023 will have the facilities to burn a yearly total of 1,844,000 tonnes of waste. This could lead to up to 77% of household waste being burned, well above the Scottish Government’s target of incinerating 14% of municipal waste by 2030 as set out in the 2003 National Waste Strategy.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is now calling for a moratorium on the building of new incinerators in Scotland.

Sarah Moyes, Plastic and Circular Economy Campaigner with Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Scotland’s incineration capacity is spiralling out of control. We are locking ourselves into decades of sending useful materials up in smoke, as well as creating a barrier to moving to a circular economy by creating a never-ending demand for waste as fuel, diverting it from re-use and recycling. With over 2 million tonnes of household waste generated in 2018 and a target to recycle 70% of that by 2025, our projected incineration capacity just doesn’t add up."

Under the The Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, local authorities have until 2025 to divert their biodegradable municipal waste (e.g. food scraps, garden waste) from landfill, four years later than originally planned by the Scottish Government.

Ms Moyes continued: “There is absolutely no place for incineration as a solution for tackling the climate crisis and we must ensure that local authorities don’t rush to build even more waste-hungry incinerators as the answer to their waste problems.

“Councils are likely to be met by local resistance to incinerators being built as people will be concerned to learn that they are planning to burn even more of their waste. Instead they should be working with the Scottish Government and communities to boost recycling and composting, and help more people to reuse resources and get their household items repaired.”

“The Scottish Government has spoken about the importance of moving to a circular economy, but its incoherent waste policy makes a mockery of such claims with no incentive whatsoever to reduce our overconsumption of resources and recycling rates actually falling.

"Instead local authorities are pushing ahead with incineration plans for materials which should be recycled or composted instead. Instead of leaving it to the market, the Scottish Government needs to urgently get a grip of waste policy and stop any more incinerators from being built.”

She added: “There is no doubt that this rise in incineration is a major threat to Scotland’s recycling targets. We’re on course to have more incineration capacity in Scotland than ever before and it’s difficult to see how we can possibly continue to increase our recycling rates when we are accelerating towards a future of burning our waste instead.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that disposal of biodegradable waste to landfill should be banned by 2025 at the latest. We have ambitious targets to improve the way we manage materials by reducing waste, increasing recycling and keeping materials at a higher value for longer. We are making strong progress but still need capacity to dispose of residual waste while we make the transition to a circular economy in Scotland.

“Our commitment to becoming a net-zero society by 2045 is unwavering. Scotland is already committed to world-leading action to combat climate change and our 2020-21 Programme for Government places this at the heart of our action on jobs, skills and investment. The Programme for Government also includes an investment of £70 million to improve refuse collection infrastructure and develop a new route map to reduce waste and improve recycling as part of plans to drive a thriving circular economy.”