In the year 2019/20 Birmingham ranked 337 out of 341 in the English local authority league with a recycling rate of 23.6%. Local authorities at the top of the league have recycling rates of over 60%. The council has previously been under scrutiny for including bottom ash (not classified as a recyclable material by Defra) from Tyseley’s incinerator among its recycling figures – suggesting that Birmingham’s recycling rate could be even lower than what is officially stated.
Instead of making good use of the resources in our waste, over 300,000 tonnes of it is going up in smoke at the Tyseley incinerator. For every tonne of rubbish burned there, a tonne of carbon dioxide is produced. Not only does this make it the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the city but using the plant in this way remains inefficient as the amount of energy the incinerator produces is far less than what could be produced if we made better use of our resources. Waste incineration can no longer be sold to the public as a solution. Waste is a rubbish fuel!
Birmingham City Council’s contract with Veolia ends in 2024, however,a new contract is on the table to pay £490 million to keep on burning through to 2034. To continue operating the plant, a company would want a flow of income from gate fees and therefore do not have any incentive to burn less or make more efficient use of our resources.
As well as being a poor use of resources, burning waste in the incinerator exacerbates the city’s air quality problem – poorly impacting our health and contributing to climate change.