UKWIN: who they are, why they matter and 2017 AGM lessons

Anti-incineration and zero waste campaigns require harmonisation


For those who are unaware of their work, UKWIN (United Kingdom Without Incineration Network) is an independent organisation campaigning against waste incineration (including gasification, pyrolysis and cement kilns).

Founded in 2007, UKWIN functions as a coordinating space for activists campaigning against waste incinerators in their local area. They provide support to activists in the form of information, contacts and general organisational advice to help strengthen anti-incineration campaigns, both locally and nationally.

They have had a number of successes and have received interest from both local and national press. Notably, UKWIN veteran, Shlomo Dowen, has appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to articulate the case against incineration.

Undoubtedly, the ideas articulated by UKWIN are beginning to permeate into mainstream politics like never before. To give a specific example, the newly elected Labour MP for Keighley, John Grogan, is openly an anti-incineration supporter. Mr Grogan has pledged to donate half of his first month’s MP salary to the campaign against the opening up of a waste incineration in his local constituency. This news has certainly excited anti-incineration campaigners, though they are wary of succumbing to complacency and are keen to keep this momentum going.

Why UKWIN are relevant to Zero Waste UK

UKWIN campaign specifically against waste incineration. But the reality is that society continues to produce waste. This is why Zero Waste UK and UKWIN have to marry together much more closely. Zero waste involves trying to stop waste from being produced in the first place, before one even considers landfills or incinerators. Thus, essentially, the two “camps” are tackling the same issue but from different perspectives and more closer alignment is required.

Anti-incineration campaigns are negative in orientation i.e. they exist to oppose incineration. Zero waste offers a credible alternative to waste incineration, helping to build a more positive narrative. UKWIN, through its Bin the Burners campaign and by other means, is actively involved in advocating for zero waste strategies and promoting opportunities presented by zero waste.

UKWIN claim incineration destroys valuable materials and nutrients, removing them from the circular economy. They claim that incineration burns recyclable materials, release millions of tonnes of CO2 and emits harmful pollution. It is argued that incineration is a barrier to achieving a more circular economy and a zero waste world because incinerators are so expensive to build; incinerations cost around £150m-£200m to build. Money invested in incineration cannot be invested in better collection, sorting and treatment infrastructure, and the presence of expensive infrastructure results in ‘lock-in’ into incineration that reduces the financial incentives to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

As Zero Waste UK look set to “reboot” themselves as an organisation, it is important that UKWIN and Zero Waste align more closely. This is to ensure a strong voice exists advocating both against incineration and for zero waste. Offering an alternative (zero waste) whilst opposing incineration will only seek to strengthen the campaigns of anti-incineration campaigners.

The take home point here is that Zero Waste UK needs UKWIN to campaign against incineration just as UKWIN needs ZWUK to campaign for zero waste.

Key messages from the 1st July Annual General Meeting

An important take-home message from UKWIN’s AGM was the need to ensure planning objections to incinerator applications are proposal-specific, e.g. focused on the inappropriateness of a specific proposed location. Such an approach enables Waste Planning Authorities to refuse a proposal without having to adopt an in-principle position against incineration. UKWIN has produced a helpful guidance document to site-specific planning arguments which can be read here.

A notable key theme throughout the whole day was the need to build bridges between zero waste and anti-incineration movements. It would be mutually beneficial for both campaigns to coordinate more closely, as they are both tackling the same issue but from different angles (as articulated above).  Zero Waste UK invites any UKWIN network member (and anyone involved more generally in anti-incineration movements) to get involved in and take action. Together, we are much stronger than we are on our own. Let’s create a strong voice advocating for a circular economy.

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Wow! What an excellent AGM that UKWIN enjoyed on Saturday! Thanks to everyone who contributed, starting with Friends of…

Posted by UK Without Incineration Network on Monday, 16 May 2016

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