NORTH-EAST councils have been pressured to drop £2.1 billion plans for a 'monster incinerator' that will burn waste from across the region for decades to come.

A potential 40-year project to burn rubbish from Newcastle, County Durham, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton at a giant waste facility in Redcar was announced last year.

The scheme, which will see about 450,000 tonnes of waste a year being sent to the site, has left environmental activists appalled.

A Stop Incineration in the North-East (SINE) campaign has been launched to oppose the building of the plant, which for some has brought back troubling memories of the Byker ash scandal in Newcastle, in which the city council was prosecuted after 2,000 tonnes of ash from the old Byker incinerator was found to contain potentially cancer-causing dioxins.

Almost 600 people have backed an online petition calling on the seven councils to cancel the 'climate-killing' build, which it claims will emit 'vast quantities of carbon dioxide' and other dangerous pollutants.

The councils accused the petition of making a number of 'inaccurate claims' and insisted that the site would offer a 'safe, efficient and sustainable solution' for treating the general rubbish left over after recycling in the North-East.

SINE member Frances Hinton, a campaigner who worked on the BAN Waste group set up in Newcastle in the wake of the Byker saga of the early 2000s, said: “It is a juggernaut. Once you have something as big as that, each council will wring its hands and say that it is not just us and pass the buck.

The Northern Echo: The site where the incinerator will standThe site where the incinerator will stand

"Four of these seven local authorities have themselves declared a climate emergency, as well as it being declared in the government itself. This is just not consistent.”

The project will cost an initial £300 million, with an overall contract value of £2.1 billion over an initial 29 years – which could be extended by a further 11.

A spokesperson for the Tees Valley Energy Recovery Facility (TVERF) project said: “We are aware of an online petition that unfortunately makes a number of inaccurate claims regarding our efforts to provide a safe, efficient and sustainable solution for treating the general rubbish left over after recycling in the North-East.

“Our project seeks to use proven, reliable technology to provide a cost-effective and affordable solution for the ongoing treatment of waste that is not reused or recycled.

“Facilities such as this are approved by Public Health England, closely regulated by the Environment Agency, and will play a role in delivering a net-zero carbon economy by removing waste from landfill.

“Of course, helping households to recycle as much as possible remains a priority for all of the councils involved.

“The TVERF is in no way an impediment to that, and we anticipate that recycling rates will continue to improve as we all work towards a cleaner, greener future.”

Cllr Jonathan Elmer, Durham Green Party Candidate for City of Durham and Neville’s Cross, said that the councils are undermining recycling.

He added: “The councils cannot say that this is sustainable, as it will literally burn plastics and food waste that then turn directly into carbon dioxide, which goes into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change.

The Northern Echo: Jonathan Elmer argued that an anaerobic digester would be a more sustainable choiceJonathan Elmer argued that an anaerobic digester would be a more sustainable choice

“It’s the absolute reverse of what they ought to be doing. Their argument is that it’s better than it going to landfill, because if it goes to landfill, you get methane emissions that are much worse than carbon dioxide.

“Methane emissions are significantly more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but it’s not as long lasting in the atmosphere; it actually disappears within about four or five years, whereas carbon dioxide hangs around forever.

“Rather than clubbing together to produce a massive incinerator, it would be much better if the local authorities club together to pay for a food waste treatment facility, such as an anaerobic digester.

“This would decompose food waste in a proper facility, which then actually becomes a useful product, as it can be used as fertiliser.

“There is a certain level of greenhouse gas emission associated with the process, like carbon dioxide coming from the food waste, but given that carbon has been pulled out of the atmosphere to create the food in the first place, that could be considered carbon neutral.

“If you create a big incinerator that simply takes everything, it undermines recycling, and because it is a PFI facility, the councils are locked into a contract to take a certain quantity of waste to it for about 45 years.

The Northern Echo: Jonathan Elmer said that the councils are undermining recyclingJonathan Elmer said that the councils are undermining recycling

“It means that they don’t have the freedom to try and reduce waste, because they’ve actually created a demand for waste, which is the reverse of what we should be doing.

“It is true to say that modern incinerators are cleaner burning than they were ten or 20 years ago- but they’re not entirely clean, and this is another area of inaccuracy from the council basically saying this is new clean technology and that there isn’t a problem. That needs to be qualified.

“When these things are burning at full temperature, operating under nominal parameters, they are clean- but they never run at optimal temperature continuously, there’s always occasions where they are lit up or turned off to be cooled down.

“Whenever they go through a temperature transition, there are plumes of noxious chemicals coming out, and there is no denying that, and the councils know that- they’re just trying to stop the facts coming out in relation to this.”

This week, a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation found that 11% of the rubbish put out to be recycled is in fact incinerated, and that the total carbon emissions from incineration have now overtaken those from coal.

To sign the petition, go to