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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 20:26 GMT
Waste incineration 'set to rise'
Rubbish bags
Ministers believe rubbish can be a green source of fuel
Ministers are preparing to back a large increase in the amount of rubbish that is incinerated instead of being buried, according to documents seen by the BBC.

An environment department paper, to be published next month, suggests the proportion of burned waste could rise from 9% to 25% in the next 15 years.

It urges making "energy from waste", a process in which incinerators are used to power electricity generation plants.

Friends of the Earth labelled as "myth" claims refuse can provide green energy.

Recycling question

The BBC's rural affairs correspondent, Tom Heap, said ministers were keen to stress their priority was to minimise the amount of waste created in the first place.

He said government plans could be summed up as: "If you must [create waste] then preferably recycle it, failing that burn it to make electricity, and only bury what is left."

The government should tackle the UK's waste crisis by reducing the amount we generate
Friends of the Earth

Ministers believed more burning was justified as it provided a green source of energy, reduced our dependence on foreign fuel, and health risks from emissions were small, our correspondent said.

But Michael Warhurst, of Friends of the Earth, said Britons should be concentrating on recycling more and burning less.

"Incinerators are extremely inefficient generators of energy, producing more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than an old-fashioned coal-fired power station.

"The government should tackle the UK's waste crisis by reducing the amount we generate and ensuring a huge expansion in recycling."

Sustainable strategy

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) refused to comment on the report.

We have to cut our reliance on landfill
Chartered Institute of Wastes Management
But a spokesman said waste burning was a part of its sustainable waste management strategy.

He said Defra's current position was that "energy recovery from waste has an important role to play in treating residual waste and reducing the volume of waste disposed of to landfill".

Steve Lee, from the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, told the BBC he would back a move towards more incineration.

"We have to cut our reliance on landfill because we've got tough targets under the European landfill directive," he said.

He added we ought to make the most of the energy that could be provided from millions of tonnes of rubbish.

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