Chapter 9.2.4 Incineration

Create a phase out plan for incinerators

Create a phase out plan for Scotland’s incinerators.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Behaviour change
Emissions reduction

In 2019, the total quantity of waste incinerated in Scotland was 1.23 million tonnes across 24 permitted facilities. This was an increase of 0.52 million tonnes (72%) from 2018 and this total includes waste from all categories including household, wood, animal manure and rubber. During this same period 330,368 tonnes of household or similar waste was incinerated, an increase of 131% from 142,946 tonnes in 2018.

Under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, a ban on sending biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) to landfill is due to be introduced in 2025, after the Scottish Government announced in September 2019 that the ban would be delayed for a number of years. This delay has given local authorities across Scotland extra time to plan how they will divert their waste from landfill, but many see incineration as the solution.

Local authorities and waste companies plan to increase incineration capacity in Scotland by at least an extra one million tonnes. This means that by 2027 there will be more incineration capacity than there is waste to burn. Scotland currently has five working incinerators for household waste with a capacity of 788,000 tonnes per year.

There is a moratorium on building new incinerators, although some already in the pipeline will still be built. 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. There are at least four other incinerators under consideration.

Scotland currently generates 2.41 million tonnes of household waste a year and by 2023 we will have the facilities in Scotland 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 only 14% of municipal waste by 2030 as set out in the 2003 National Waste Strategy.

The Scottish Government needs a plan to phase out the use of incineration entirely and a strong step in the right direction would be to ban plastics going to incinerators by 2025.

For further information:

Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.