Michael Ryan has been kind enough to draw attention to the fact that Shrewsbury Liberal Democrats have chosen a doctor as their parliamentary candidate, and has asked for views on the incinerator proposed north of Shrewsbury. I am happy to respond.
There is good evidence from soil sampling that incinerators built over the last twenty or thirty years have increased the levels of toxic materials in the environment. The main serious pollutants from Municipal Waste Incinerators, and from hospital incinerators are dioxins which arise from burning plastics. The main pollutant from crematoria is mercury.
There is also evidence that suggests that there have been more stillbirths and fatal birth defects in areas close to incinerators and crematoria. This seems to be particularly true of older incinerators. The evidence cannot prove that these health problems are caused by pollution from the incinerators, but there is some likelihood that there is a link. The increase seems to be about one per thousand births.
In the circumstances it would seem to be irresponsible to build a new incinerator anywhere that is likely to expose pregnant mothers to the toxic waste.
Why then is there so much argument? Because we are still producing too much waste. We cannot go on simply burying our waste in the ground.
It seems to me therefore that there are two challenges.
The challenge to all of us as consumers, is to buy less plastic, particularly plastic wrapping, and to re-use or re-cycle what we do buy. Some parts of Shropshire are now recycling plastic bottles, but there is far more that could be done.
And the challenge to anyone proposing to build an incinerator is to prove that it will not produce toxic fumes. There are new technologies available in the form of filtering and scrubbing the exhaust from incinerators, but probably the only way to eliminate dioxins is to use extremely high temperatures as in Plasma Gasification plants.