SCOTLAND needs to start getting serious about its waste production problem and we could start by placing a moratorium on the construction of incinerators across the country – which are quite literally adding fuel to the fire.

The SNP promised a review on the role of incineration in its election manifesto, and it is time to start delivering on that promise before it’s too late, and planning gets under way for incinerator expansion which will lock Scotland into decades of waste production and air pollution.

Plans are currently under way for a new energy-from-waste facility at Killoch, near Ochiltree, in East Ayrshire. The site has been designated as a brownfield site, but it is surrounded on all sides by green fields in one of Scotland’s biggest dairy farming regions and is within the newly created Unesco Galloway and Southern Ayrshire transition zone.

I spoke with three farmers who all look on to the site, none of which have been properly consulted about its construction, bar a leaflet in the post and all of whom share concerns that by-products from the plant could pose a threat to the surrounding land, livestock and wildlife.

In an attempt to diversify their business and improve their environmental credentials they applied for planning permission for wind turbines which was subsequently rejected on the grounds of it being near a flight path and in close proximity to the local conservation village of Ochiltree. However, it doesn’t add up that a waste plant with a chimney expected to reach up to 75m in height and which will knowingly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is allowed to “sail through the process”.

Another farmer had been exploring converting to organic milk production but stressed that the new incinerator would completely go against organic principles. Erecting a giant polluter in the middle of a big dairying region isn’t exactly the green image of Scottish farming that we are trying so hard to promote to the public.

Locals from the surrounding villages have formed an action group but fear that the project will just go through regardless. They told me that areas of social deprivation are being targeted for incinerator construction. Since the mines were closed in East Ayrshire over 30 years ago, there have been substantive efforts to rebuild its environmental credentials, so it is utter madness to seek to industrialise the region once again. One local resident said: “We already have a local history of lung disease as a lasting memory from the mines, we don’t want to have another generation who have lung problems because of the pollution from the toxic fumes of an incinerator.”

There are even proposals to develop an environmentally sensitive Eco-Therapy Wellness Park at the site of the former Barony colliery near Auchinleck. Guests recovering from life-threatening ailments looking to relax and rejuvenate in a green, healthy environment, might think twice about such a venture with waste lorries whizzing by.

I was told that there will be around eight lorries an hour navigating East Ayrshire’s windy network of roads and there are concerns from the local action group about the infrastructure of some of the rural villages and their iconic bridges, such as B listed Burnock Bridge. There are many rural villages who will suffer with increased levels of traffic on already notoriously dangerous roads with bottlenecks likely to hit the village of Mauchline.

These plants run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and need a constant supply of waste. The proposed facility at Killoch is expected to process around 166,000 tonnes of waste a year but this will not be limited to collection from the local area. The proximity principle was removed in 2017, which means that waste could be coming in from around the country. It is quite literally going to be the case that waste generated in highly populated urban areas will be dumped on the doorstep of Scotland’s rural areas.

Another incinerator was given the go-ahead for construction last year in Irvine in North Ayrshire and once up and running is estimated to handle up to 180,000 tonnes of waste yearly. Why are two brand-new incinerators needed within a 25-mile radius?

The company managing the proposed site at Killoch, Barr Environmental, say that the facility will “safely and sustainably manage waste that can’t be recycled” – that buzz word “sustainable” that gives all companies a free pass. Of course, residual waste is an issue, but instead of burning it, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, and generating huge volumes of heat which will need housed, the focus here should be reducing waste in the first instance.

The onus has to be on the Government to drive manufacturers and supermarkets to lead on this change. The Scottish Government has announced an ambitious climate change plan, only this past week promising £22 million extra support towards restoring our peatlands. This is part of a £250m 10-year funding plan to restore 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2030.

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Barlosh Moss in East Ayrshire is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is located 1.5km from the proposed incinerator site. It is 12.22m deep and until recently was the deepest recorded peat bog in Scotland. Fantastic efforts to preserve important sites like Barlosh could be undermined in one sweep If we allow incineration to burn in the background.

The Scottish Greens have promised to oppose the construction of new incinerators and have called on the Scottish Government to prevent expansion and refocus efforts on waste prevention and recycling.

If the Government is serious about rebuilding Scotland’s circular economy and “reducing, recycling and reusing resources” then it time to place a moratorium on incineration expansion and conduct a review into how incineration fits in with their ambitious climate plans.