Biggest day of action ever against incineration

Feature story - July 16, 2003
More than 253 groups from 62 countries today took action against waste incineration to serve notice to their governments that time is running out on the controversial technology despite vigorous attempts by the incineration industry to repackage their burners as renewable energy or modern thermal systems for waste disposal.

"With growing desperation to ensure the survival of their dying industry, incinerator pushers are scrambling to repackage and reinvent their technologies using various forms of greenwashing including referring to incinerators as clean, renewable energy sources of claiming to have 'new' variations like pyrolysis or gasification for the same old and discredited process," said Ann Leonard, Co-Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), which invites over 375 groups and communities fighting to end wasting and burning, from 77 countries.

The combined and simultaneous protest actions around the world mark the observance of the 2nd Global Day of Action against Waste Incineration, by far the most massive demonstration of public opposition to incinerators on a global scale. Spearheaded by GAIA, the yearly anti-incineration day of action intends to highlight the health, environmental, economic, social problems associated with waste burning and other polluting waste management practices, and at the same time promote safe and sustainable alternatives for preventing waste and managing society's discards.

GAIA today released the report "Waste Incineration: A Dying Technology," which explains why incinerators are an unsustainable and obsolete method for dealing with waste. The GAIA report concludes that incineration is a dying technology. As a waste treatment technology, it is unreliable and produces a secondary waste stream more dangerous that the original. As an energy production method, it is inefficient and wasteful of resources. As an economic development tool, it is a catastrophe, which drains money out of local communities and creates scarce and often dangerous jobs.

"Today's action are clear manifestations of the growing global resistance against incinerators and other dirty forms of waste disposal. With the possible exception of nuclear power, perhaps no other technology has stirred up such inflamed defiance form citizens and communities the world over. For this and other good reasons, governments around the world should pay heed and start implementing safe and sustainable alternatives to incineration, said Tara Buacomsri.

Public opposition has killed many proposed and existing incinerators worldwide. For instance, a massive grassroots movement has defeated more than 300 municipal waste incinerator proposals in the United States in the last 15 years. In Japan, the most incinerator intensive country, public pressure has resulted in over 500 incinerators being shut down in recent years. Jurisdictions in 15 countries have passed partial bans on incineration and one country, the Philippines, has banned all incineration.

Today's actions also coincide with the first day of the Seventh Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC7) meeting of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Convention which has yet to be ratified aims to eliminate the most persistent toxic substances known to science, including he cancer-causing dioxins and furans.

The Convention identifies all waste incinerators, including cement kilns burning hazardous wastes, as major sources of dioxins and furans and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs and recommends the use of the substitute techniques to avoid the generation of these unintentionally produced pollutants. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reports that incinerators account for 69% of dioxin emissions worldwide.


The GAIA Report "Waste Incineration: A Dying Technology" is available for free download at The Report discusses the problems with waste incineration and explains viable alternatives to this outdated method for dealing with waste. The report further talks about the expanding repudiation of incineration across the globe, including incinerator bans and moratoria imposed in several places. Neil Tangri, formerly of Essential Action USA wrote the report for GAIA.