Harmful or Harmless? The Health Effects of Waste Management Systems by mlb9ImF


									Harmful or Harmless?
 The Health Effects of Waste
   Management Systems

                       Carl Beer

     Director, Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority

                Wednesday 16th May 2007
• Health concerns compared with
   – those of the past,
   – different ways of dealing with waste,
   – other sources of pollution
• The impact on carbon emissions and climate change
• Comparing emissions and health effects to make
  informed decisions
             Climate Change
• “Health Effects of Climate Change”
(DOH 2002, Updated 2007)
   – Fewer cold weather spells
   – More heatwaves
   – More sudden heavy rain
   – Reduction in annual rainfall in some areas
   – Low risk of severe coastal flooding
           Climate Change
• Outbreaks of Malaria rare
• Increase in foodborne diseases
• Increase in microbes in drinking water
• 1 in 40 (high) risk of severe heatwaves in SE
  England by 2012 leading to perhaps 3000
  immediate deaths and 6350 heat related
• Winter deaths will continue to decline
          Climate Change
• Ozone concentrations in air increase
• Increase in attributable deaths and hospital
• Increase in skin cancers
       The Big Questions
• Will new waste management systems
  increase or decrease rate of climate
• Thereby increase or reduce health
  effects of climate change?
• Are there health effects from
• What about very local health effects?
            “The Chain”
• Resources – Production – Consumption
  – Collection – Storage – Re-use –
  Recycling -Treatment - Disposal
  (currently mainly landfill)

• Throughout: Transport, storage
• Health Effects at any or all stages?
• Health impacts?
• Alternate Week Collections –
  no significant adverse health
  effects likely (DEFRA March
• No evidence of increase in bio-
• Annoyance – odour and flies –
• Source-pathway-receptor link
                     The Size of the Problem



         1,000,000                   MUNICIPAL


          600,000                            BIO-

          200,000      LANDFILL

                     20 6

                     20 7

                     20 8

                     20 9

                     20 0

                     20 1

                     20 2

                     20 3

                     20 4

                     20 5

                     20 6

                     20 7

                     20 8

                     20 9




























• ~ 900,000 tonnes/year
• Current Recycling ~20%
• ~£3 billion contract value over 25 years
• ~300-400M capital investment in facilities
• 2 large and several smaller sites
• Treatment and disposal costs expected to go up from
  ~£40M to ~£70M/year
• Opportunity to recycle 45% +
• Cost of ‘Do nothing’ - £30M per year in 2009/10
  (National Audit Office Report 2006)
•   One tonne of biodegradable waste = 200 to 400m3 of methane and CO2.
•   Waste treatment, including landfill, released ~22% of the UK's methane
    emissions in 2003, ~2% of all greenhouse gas emissions (in terms of carbon
•   Odours from volatile organic trace gases
•   Nuisance from increased traffic, noise, dust and odour

•   Health impacts
    UK study - within 2km of landfill site - small increased risk of certain birth
    defects. However, it is not known if the landfill was the cause of the defects.
•   A similar study found no evidence for an increased risk of cancer in populations
    living close to landfills . More research is needed to quantify the risks and
    establish any causal links.
•   Symptoms - tiredness, sleepiness and headaches have been reported.
    Symptoms cannot be assumed to be an effect of toxic chemical action, but may
    indicate that sites can have an impact on stress and anxiety.
•   About a third of landfill sites taking significant amounts of biodegradable waste
    have gas controls and many sites extract the gas for energy recovery.
•   About 48% of renewable gas and electricity now comes from landfill gas in Great
•   Burning methane (landfill gas) produces carbon dioxide, which has a much
    weaker global warming effect.
•   Extending these measures and building new waste treatment facilities will
    reduce methane emissions over the next 10 years
    • Open Windrow if garden
    • In-vessel if includes food
    • Removes the need for landfill
      or incineration.
    • Saves natural resources and
      reduces greenhouse
    • Risk of occupational ill-health
      generated from bio-aerosols
      and bio-hazards
Advanced Biological Treatment
           •   Odour
           •   Most advanced technologies enclosed, potential
               emissions controlled through ventilation, air
               scrubbing & filters
           •   Bioaerosols/dust
           •   Potential for respiratory complaints if inhaled in
               large quantities. Managed by enclosed
               processes, negative pressure buildings & odour
           •   Water resources
           •   Avoid uncontrolled leachate/run off. Impermeable
               surfaces, drainage & hygiene systems should
               prevent any discharges from breaking consents
• Bioaerosols (airborne micro-organisms) in
  high levels
• Linked with respiratory and
  gastrointestinal symptoms
• But no clear understanding of a dose-
  response relationship
Materials Recycling Facility (MRF)
•   Dust
•   Bioaerosols
•   Noise
•   Odour
•   Accidents
Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT)
•   Bio-aerosols – at least 250m from sensitive receptors. Bio filters,
    thermal emissions clean up
•   Dust/Odour
•   Flies, etc - Some MBT retention times designed to be less than
    breeding cycle of vermin, eg. Rats. Some raise temp of incoming waste
    to kill flies, etc
•   Noise
•   Litter
•   Water Resources
•   Need to manage any process waters, wash down & liquids within waste
    with a drainage system
•   Visual Intrusion
      •   ~10% of England's waste is
          incinerated. That contrasts with
          much greater use of incineration
          in Europe.
      •   Incineration reduces the need for
      •   'Energy from waste' facilities
          use heat energy that is generated
          to power and heat buildings,
          reclaiming some benefit from
      •   Planning permission for new
          facilities is problematic - plant
          emissions and traffic movements
          unpopular with the public.
Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) Or EfW
  Health effects of incineration
• (DEFRA 2004)
• No link between current MSW incinerators and health
• Adverse health effects sometimes observed around
  older incinerators/ industrial areas.
   – Confirms need for good, consistent, long-term
• Can’t study current incinerators in same way
• … but much lower exposure
  Health effects of incineration
• No consistent or convincing evidence of a link
  between cancer and incineration
   – Studies focus on older incinerators (inevitably)
   – Study of 14m people (1974 - 1987). No convincing
     demonstration of an excess of cancers
   – DOH Committee on Carcinogenicity: “any potential risk of
     cancer … exceedingly low and probably not measurable …”
   – Possible increase in childhood cancers associated with living
     near incinerators operating before 1955
   – Dioxins and furans: exposure at much higher levels has not
     led to consistently observable effects. Any impacts are
     small/non-existent and not quantifiable
     Health effects of incineration
• Abnormal operating conditions
   – 56 incidents reported to Environment Agency during 2003. Most
     were due to CO and HCl; four were due to dioxins and furans;
     and one to cadmium
   – Increases in emissions typically occur during start-up/shut-down;
     due to inadequately mixed wastes; during commissioning
   – Feedback from emissions monitoring system allows continual
     adjustment of process to control emissions of some substances
   – Use surrogate measurements to control other substances which
     can’t be measured continuously – e.g. dioxins and furans; metals
   – Continuous sampling techniques now available
   – These incidents need to be understood and prevented. However,
     relatively infrequent; no significant impact on long-term exposure
Estimated emissions to air from waste
    incineration per tonne of waste
Substance            2000 as a percentage of 1980 levels
NOx                                 85%
Particulates                        12%
SO2                                 3%
HCl                                 1.5%
VOC’s                               32%
Cadmium                            0.19%
Arsenic                             1.3%
Mercury                             2.8%
Dioxins and Furans         0.22% (of 1990 levels)
Nickel                              1.8%
   EfW in context with other sources of risk
Health                           Number per year in the UK due to
              MSW         Lung         Pedest-    Natural/   Choking      Injury
             emiss-    cancer due        rian     environ-   on food       from
             ions to   to passive       traffic    mental              fireworks
               air      smoking       accidents   causes

  Deaths       0.5                       671        191        246

 Hospital      5                       34,881                            1017
 Cancers     0.0018     Several
   Data       Poor        Poor        Very good    Good       Good       Good
            Waste management in context with other
                    sources of emissions









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       EfW in context with other sources of
                   Emissions to air from a typical UK incinerator

                      Typical annual
   Substance                                     Approximately equivalent to
                      EfW emissions
Oxides of nitrogen       370,000 kg          A 7 km stretch of a typical motorway
  Fine particles
                          8,000 kg           A 5 km stretch of a typical motorway
 Sulphur dioxide          9,000 kg          100 homes using coal fires for heating
                                             Accidental fires in a town the size of
Dioxins and furans       0.18 grams
                                                       Milton Keynes
                                             A twentieth of the emissions from a
    Cadmium                 1.2 kg
                                            medium sized coal-fired power station
  Health effects of incineration
• No consistent or convincing evidence of a link
  between respiratory health and incineration
   – Most studies focus on older incinerators.
   – Most studies are based upon self-reported symptoms and
     are subject to bias
   – Consistent with risk assessment, emissions and ambient
• No consistent evidence of a link between
  reproductive problems and incineration
   – Studies focus on older incinerators
   – Studies limited by small sample sizes; exposure surrogate;
     confounding factors
   – No plausible mechanism (exposure too low)
    Advanced Thermal Treatment
•   Transport & traffic- Impacts on local roads & amenity of local
•   Air emissions - Flue gases & clean up equipment required to allow
    emissions to comply with Waste Incineration Directive
•   Fine particles from synthetic gas can be removed before emission and
    other solid residues produced by abatement technology. Such solid
    wastes from flue treatment are hazardous & need appropriate disposal
•   Dust/odour
•   Always potential for this. Need good building design, maximise indoor
    operations, dust suppression from vehicle movements, negative
    pressure buildings
•   Flies/vermin/birds
•   Minimised as operations indoors. Risk of files in hot weather, especially
    if present in incoming waste. Process design & site management can
    Advanced Thermal Treatment (2)
•   Noise -Controlled under waste license conditions. Potential sources:
    vehicles, traffic on local roads, mechanical processing, air extraction,
    etc systems, steam turbines, air cooled condensers
•   Litter - High paper/plastic content maximises risk. Site management
•   Water Resources - Any effluent subject to a management plan for
    permitting requirements
•   Visual intrusion - Direct effects – earthworks, tree/vegn removal. Site
    setting – proximity to listed buildings, conservation areas, sensitive
•   Emissions – concern can be more perceptual than actual
•   Distrust based on older plants & lack of
              Illegal waste disposal (fly tipping,
                          bonfires, etc)
   Dioxin/Furans contribution in 2004     %
Chemical/sewage/animal/crematoria        16.2

Iron and steel                           10.5
Bonfire night and vehicle fires          5.5
Petrol refining                          3.7
Incineration/ERF                         0.1
Road Transport                           0.02
    Waste and Carbon Emissions
•   Waste is currently responsible for 1.4 GtCO2e/year
•   Over half is from landfill sites and most of the remainder from
    wastewater treatment.
•   Reusing and recycling lead to less resources being required to
    produce new goods and a reduction in associated emissions.
•   Technologies such as energy-recovering incinerators also help to
    reduce emissions.
•   The IPCC estimate that 0.7 GtCO2e/year could be saved in 2020, of
    which three quarters could be achieved at negative cost and one
    quarter at a cost of $5/tCO2e
        EfW and carbon emissions
• Need to consider effects at strategic level
• Effect of a waste incinerator:
   – Avoid risk of creation of methane (e.g. in landfill)
   – Generate electricity and heat from waste displacing fossil
   – May use potentially recyclable materials
   – Release carbon which would otherwise be locked up (e.g. in

   –   Issues to be considered:
   –   Level of Pre-sorting
   –   Residues
   –   Use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
   –   Could waste streams be recycled?
   –   Resource benefits and energy costs of recycling
                                 EfW and carbon emissions
                                                                             cle                  g          ise                     n
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                                                                    er                   p os        /s          /R        ifica
                                           ine       E fW      p ap       AD        c om        M BT       M  BT      g as
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                                      as         igh       igh        igh       igh        igh         igh        igh
                                  1.B        2.H        3.H       4.H       5.H        6.H         7.H         8.H       9.M

1000 T CO2 equivalent





        EfW and carbon emissions

•   “Impact of Energy from Waste and Recycling Policy on UK Greenhouse
    Gas Emissions,” ERM for Defra, January 2006
      – 9 MSW scenarios; 3 C&I scenarios
      – High EfW and RdF combustion scenarios perform well
      – Uncertainties?

•   Greenhouse Gas emissions are dominated by indirect benefits
     – materials recycling
     – energy recovery
•   EfW can be consistent with reduced carbon emissions
•   Well though out waste management strategy is essential
        Informed decision-making
• It is possible to take informed decisions about waste systems
• Evaluation consistency – Sustainability, Carbon balance, LCA,
• Decision-taking models:
    – Presentation / questions
         • One-way
         • Good for informing; less good for engaging
    – Round-table discussion:
         • Effective in generating debate; individuals can draw their
           own conclusions
         • Good for informing and engaging; less good for decision
    – Witness / scrutiny:
         • Formal, auditable process; allows evidence to be tested
         • Good for informing decision-makers, potentially divisive

• Emerging waste management techniques
   – Composting; Advanced Thermal Treatments
     (Gasification/Pyrolysis/Advanced incineration); MBT;
     Anaerobic digestion; Autoclave;
   – Promoted as alternatives to old incineration technologies
   – E.g. MBT “virtually pollution free”

• Need to be aware of pros and cons
   – Evidence for adverse effects of EfW and alternatives
   – Quality of information on emissions/impacts
   – Risk of process upsets
   – Really alternatives?
   – Need to communicate the health risks of waste management
     options in a fair and balanced way
• The evidence suggests:
•   All waste management systems are controversial
•   Downside risk usually overstated
•   The benefits to overall environmental management have not been sold
•   Incinerators are now relatively minor sources of emissions
•   Incineration is now among most stringently controlled and scrutinised
     – Not widely appreciated
     – Technical case can now be made

•   However, perception is everything!
•   Public relations challenge:
     – Message is not straightforward
       “There may have been problems in the past. These have now been
       dealt with and the technology can be trusted.”
     – Erosion of public confidence as a result of past incidents
     – Need for honesty
                       Conclusion (2)
•   HPA Press Statement
    Waste management and its effect on health and the environment
    11 May 2004

    The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published a
    review of the environmental and health effects of municipal waste management.

    The review looks at all of the major municipal waste management
    activities including incineration and landfill; it concludes that the
    weight of evidence, from studies so far, indicates current practice
    for managing municipal waste has at most a minor effect on
    human health and the environment, particularly when compared
    with everyday activities.
                 Conclusion (3)
• There have been problems in the past
• Incinerators are now minor sources of emissions
• Alternative technologies less well understood
• Ongoing need for detailed control and scrutiny
• Energy recovery can play a role in an ambitious waste
  management strategy
• Informed decision-making is possible
   – Does not need to be limited to traditional models of dialogue
• Now a public relations challenge
   – Technical case can be made, inc. carbon balance
   – Treat ERF and alternatives fairly
   – Needs willingness to listen and adapt
   – Triple bottom line Sustainability arguments – “The here and
      now as well as the future”
                  Conclusion (4)

• New waste management systems can produce less carbon and
  ozone depleting substances
• Can help decrease rate of climate change
• And thereby reduce health effects of climate change
• There are risks of health effects associated with transport and
  operating emissions of treatment/ processing, but not significant
  in context of everyday activities
• Very local health effects possible but entirely manageable
  through good housekeeping
• Abnormal operating conditions or emergencies??

• Dr. Mark Broomfield. Technical Director,
• David Campbell, AEA
• Glynn Stevenson, MWDA
a)    The Health effects of Climate Change. DOH 2002 and update draft 2007

b)    Health impact Assessment of Alternate week biodegradeable waste collections.
      /DEFRA March 2007.
c)    Review of the environmental and health effects of waste management. Defra. 2004

•     indicates current practice for managing municipal waste has at most a minor effect on
      human health and the environment, particularly when compared with everyday activities.

•     Defra webpages on report:

•     Health Protection Agency press statement:

d) Health Protection Agency - Position Statement on Municipal Solid Waste Incineration.
      Nov 2005

•     Indicates emissions add to level of monitored pollutants & have little effect on health
•     See conclusion paragraph at end of statement
                            Studies (2)
e) Study by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU) on health outcomes in
    populations living around landfill sites. 2001

Possible small increase in rate of congenital abnormalities near landfill sites
•    http://www.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/landfill.htm
f) Dept Of Health - Cancer incidence near municipal solid waste incinerators in Great
     COC statement COC/00/S1 - March 2000

•   No clear evidence to generate concern

g) HSE 2003
•   Research Report Series
•   RR130 - Occupational and environmental exposure to bioaerosols from composts and
    potential health effects - A critical review of published data
                              Studies (3)
j) Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change 30 October 2006

•   Highlights contribution of waste emissions to global climate change emissions, and the
    opportunities and threats that these waste emissions present. In Part 111, The Economics of
    Stabilisation, the report discusses the opportunities for non fossil-fuel emissions savings,
    including the production of biogas.

•   The review also discusses the potential use of organic wastes to contribute to the expansion
    of bioenergy.
k) Health Impact Assessment – The Mayor’s (London) Draft Municipal Waste Management
    Strategy. London Health Commision & Environment Committee of the Assembly.

•   Good analysis of many and varied potential health aspects of waste, see Annex
•   Supports role of waste min in reducing potential impacts
                          Studies (4)
•   l) HPA – Review of the Health Impact of Landfill Sites. Due early

    Health Protection Agency’s Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division - will
    publish appropriate systematic literature reviews in due course including a
    review of the health impact of landfill sites.
•   3) Wider Impacts and Considerations
•   The growing need to account for GHG and climate change contribution/mitigation
•   LCA – models, etc
•   Sustainability & quality of life issues - +/- social, economic impacts too

•   Climate Change
•   Climate Change & Waste Management: The Link
•   http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/wip/newtech/pdf/ClimateChange3.pdf

•   Carbon footprint info
•   http://www.zerocarbonfootprint.co.uk/

•   LCA
•   Env Agency WRATE – Waste & Resources Assessment Tool for the Environment
•   http://www.environment-

•   Health Perception issues
•   Eg. chimney effect
Thanks For Listening


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