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Harmful or Harmless? The Health Effects of Waste Management Systems Carl Beer Director, Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority Wednesday 16th May 2007 Introduction • 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 deaths • Winter deaths will continue to decline Climate Change • Ozone concentrations in air increase • Increase in attributable deaths and hospital admissions • Increase in skin cancers The Big Questions • Will new waste management systems increase or decrease rate of climate change? • Thereby increase or reduce health effects of climate change? • Are there health effects from emissions? • 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? Collection • Health impacts? • Alternate Week Collections – no significant adverse health effects likely (DEFRA March 2007) • No evidence of increase in bio- aerosols • Annoyance – odour and flies – controllable • Source-pathway-receptor link weak The Size of the Problem 1,600,000 1,400,000 1,200,000 - 1,000,000 MUNICIPAL WASTE Tonnes 800,000 600,000 BIO- DEGRADEABLE 400,000 200,000 LANDFILL ALLOWANCE 0 20 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 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 /0 /0 /0 /0 /1 /1 /1 /1 /1 /1 /1 /1 /1 /1 /2 0 Year Merseyside • ~ 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) Landfill • 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 equivalents). • 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. Landfill • 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 Britain. • 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 Composting • Open Windrow if garden waste • In-vessel if includes food waste • Removes the need for landfill or incineration. • Saves natural resources and reduces greenhouse emissions. • 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 control • Water resources • Avoid uncontrolled leachate/run off. Impermeable surfaces, drainage & hygiene systems should prevent any discharges from breaking consents Bioaerosols • 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) MRF • Dust • Bioaerosols • Noise • Odour • Accidents Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) 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 Incineration • ~10% of England's waste is incinerated. That contrasts with much greater use of incineration in Europe. • Incineration reduces the need for landfill. • 'Energy from waste' facilities use heat energy that is generated to power and heat buildings, reclaiming some benefit from resources. • 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 effects. • Adverse health effects sometimes observed around older incinerators/ industrial areas. – Confirms need for good, consistent, long-term control • 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 Impact 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 brought forward Hospital 5 34,881 1017 admissions Cancers 0.0018 Several hundred Data Poor Poor Very good Good Good Good Pedigree Waste management in context with other sources of emissions 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 r) ea r) To s/y s/yea ear) ar) Do tal e on on s/y ye year) ar) nt t ton tons/ A g me mi ssi llio llion / ns ns/ye /year ) Ro ricul stic mi mi nd ar) on s (t en ( u sa sand nd to t o n s /ye ar) r) Po ad tra tur e e a n e tho hou s a n d to ons s /ye ea ar) Wa we n ioxi d eth (ten (t th ou ousa an d dt t on s/y /ye ar) ste r pro sport d M n e th ou s sa n nd ra m s /ye r) du n 0 M1 enze ndre d u a m s ea ar) ma a rb o P u dred t en t h t ho o us re dg lo gra t on n s/y /ye na ction C B h n ( d th nd i n (to ns ge n ( e (hu i de dre e( hu dk (te (to me ro ge d lor un rid s( dre ni c ium ry nt n it xi h (h luo n (hu n Ars e dm rcu of dio gen c OCs nf df ura Ca Me s ur V ge Bs ide lph dro dro sa n PC Ox Su Hy Hy xin Dio EfW in context with other sources of emissions 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 (PM10) 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 monitoring • 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 residents • 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 mitigate 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 reduces • 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 viewpoints • Emissions – concern can be more perceptual than actual • Distrust based on older plants & lack of info/communication/consultation/engagement Illegal waste disposal (fly tipping, bonfires, etc) Dioxin/Furans contribution in 2004 % Source Chemical/sewage/animal/crematoria 16.2 incinerators 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 fuels – May use potentially recyclable materials – Release carbon which would otherwise be locked up (e.g. in plastics) – 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 rec y tin tabil DF tio er p os /s /R ifica ine E fW p ap AD c om M BT M BT g as el ixe d 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 0 -2000 1000 T CO2 equivalent -4000 -6000 -8000 -10000 -12000 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, standards • 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 making – Witness / scrutiny: • Formal, auditable process; allows evidence to be tested • Good for informing decision-makers, potentially divisive Alternatives • 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 Conclusion • 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 processes – 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?? Acknowledgements • Dr. Mark Broomfield. Technical Director, Enviros • David Campbell, AEA • Glynn Stevenson, MWDA Studies 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: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/research/health/index.htm • Health Protection Agency press statement: http://www.hpa.org.uk/hpa/news/articles/issues/2004/040511_defra_waste.htm 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 http://www.hpa.org.uk/chemicals/incineration.htm 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 Britain COC statement COC/00/S1 - March 2000 • No clear evidence to generate concern http://www.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/coc/munipwst.htm 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 http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr130.htm 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. link:http://www.hm- treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/stern_review_r eport.cfm k) Health Impact Assessment – The Mayor’s (London) Draft Municipal Waste Management Strategy. London Health Commision & Environment Committee of the Assembly. 2001? • Good analysis of many and varied potential health aspects of waste, see Annex 1 • Supports role of waste min in reducing potential impacts http://www.londonshealth.gov.uk/pdf/waste.pdf Studies (4) • l) HPA – Review of the Health Impact of Landfill Sites. Due early 2007 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. Links • 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- agency.gov.uk/wtd/1396237/?lang=_e&theme=®ion=&subject=&searchfor=WRATE &any_all=&choose_order=&exactphrase=&withoutwords • Health Perception issues • Eg. chimney effect Thanks For Listening Questions?
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