Industrial and Commercial Waste Incineration

Carolyn Harris Excerpts
Tuesday 28th January 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

28 Jan 2020, 5:06 p.m.

Order. I am afraid I have to ask for a three-minute time limit.

Carolyn Harris Portrait Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

28 Jan 2020, 5:06 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie.

Like me, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) has a proposed site for a new incinerator in south Wales in his constituency. I therefore thank him for securing this important debate.

Clarion Close in Llansamlet, in my constituency, is on the Swansea Enterprise Park, at the heart of a small community. About 7,000 people live there, and the proposed site is close to a local school, Ysgol Lonlas, and to the Swansea Vale nature reserve. My great concern is about the effect of the incinerator on air quality, which is already a serious issue in Swansea. Only yesterday, the local press reported that Swansea has one of the highest PM2.5 levels in the UK, due to heavy industry in the city and the surrounding areas. PM2.5 are the tiny particles that cause the air to be hazy and, because they are so small, they are able to penetrate people’s respiratory and circulatory systems with ease. Those pollutants are incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal, in particular for vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with illnesses.

Llansamlet is located between the M4 and two other major thoroughfares through Swansea. Consequently, that further affects the air quality in this part of the city, and asthma rates among residents are disproportionally high. We do not need the threat of further health implications from an incinerator in the area, and I have no doubt that those living in the area would agree with me resoundingly.

We should be looking at recycling and reusing as much as we can, and at finding alternatives to waste incineration whenever possible. The proposed Swansea bay tidal lagoon, which would have brought clean green energy to our city and further afield, was scrapped in the previous Parliament. However, I have already been in touch with the new Minister in the Wales Office to invite him to Swansea to discuss the tidal lagoon again. We must stop ignoring environmental issues and start looking at what can be done to halt the climate catastrophe that we appear to be hurtling towards. We need to target spending on clean, sustainable and low-carbon projects. Building these toxic towers to incinerate waste is not the answer, not for now and certainly not for the future of our children, our towns and cities, and our planet.

Stewart Hosie Portrait Stewart Hosie (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

28 Jan 2020, 5:08 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for that wonderful three minutes.

Waste Incineration: Regulation

Carolyn Harris Excerpts
Tuesday 9th April 2019

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
John Grogan Portrait John Grogan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9 Apr 2019, 11:04 a.m.

I agree. Many residents feel that the Environment Agency’s job seems to be to try and do everything possible to nod through the application rather than rigorously interrogate it. Indeed, as I pointed out in my opening remarks, the Environment Agency has responsibilities under the Waste Regulations (England and Wales) 2011, passed by the coalition, to enforce the waste hierarchy, which puts reuse and recycling at the top. It fails to do this.

Carolyn Harris Portrait Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

9 Apr 2019, 11:04 a.m.

In my constituency of Swansea East, in the very pleasant community of Llansamlet, Biffa is currently attempting to get permission to build one of those incinerators and 2,500 members of the local community have come together to object. Does my hon. Friend agree that placing such a facility in the middle of a community is detrimental to its health, schools and homes and that we should be looking at other ways of disposing of our waste?

John Grogan Portrait John Grogan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am quite shocked by that application, but it mirrors an application in the centre of Keighley, to which I will refer in my closing remarks.

Lead Shot Ammunition

Carolyn Harris Excerpts
Tuesday 8th December 2015

(5 years, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That this House has considered lead shot ammunition.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, in my first Westminster Hall debate.

An important petition is posted on the Parliament website and thousands of people from across the country have signed it, including eight in my constituency. The language is fiery and impassioned and the argument is clear: it points to an issue that concerns the House and has done for 100 years. I refer to the petition to keep all lead ammunition. About 20,000 people have signed the call to keep using lead in their guns:

“Lead ammunition has been used for hunting and shooting since the first guns were manufactured over three centuries ago. Never has there been a recorded death through lead ingestion.”

I take the matter seriously. I have constituents who hunt and shoot, as do other Members—in particular those who represent rural areas—and I recognise that sport shooting is a tradition and part of people’s way of life. Done sustainably, it can make a real contribution to the local economy and to the countryside. It is right to consider the future of the sport.

There is also another, quieter petition on the Parliament website in support of banning the use of lead ammunition in favour of non-toxic alternatives. Fewer people have signed it—about 3,000 to date—but that is the petition I commend to the Minister and to the House.

The case for using non-toxic ammunition is clear. Non-toxic alternatives to lead are effective, affordable and safer for wildlife and people. We have known the dangers of lead poisoning for thousands of years. The phrase “crazy as a painter” was coined centuries ago to express the awful effects that lead-packed paint had on people’s minds.

Carolyn Harris Portrait Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab)
- Hansard -

I have already given you my apologies, Mr Davies, but I might have to leave early. Does my hon. Friend agree that given that the known negative health effects of lead are well established and that, to minimise risk, lead has been removed from paint and petrol, it seems a tad ironic that lead remains in the shot used for killing birds that might be for human consumption?

Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I wholeheartedly agree. I hope to set out in the course of my contribution why that is such an important point.

Some people have even explained the fall of the Roman empire as having been caused by the Romans’ use of lead in pipes and cosmetics. More recently, the World Health Organisation, the Food Standards Agency and the Oxford Lead Symposium have all highlighted the toxicity of lead. Its negative human health impacts are scientifically established, even at the lowest levels of exposure, and lead poisoning is also a big problem for wildlife.

Much of the lead shot misses its target and builds up on the ground. It is then eaten by birds, which gobble up grit to grind up their food. The lead shot is dissolved in the digestive system and absorbed into the birds’ bloodstream. Scientists at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have estimated that 50,000 to 100,000 wildfowl die of lead poisoning every year in the UK, along with many more game birds and birds of prey. Members might ask, “Where are all these dead birds?” but lead is known as the “invisible killer” because the poisoning is slow and distributed.

Carolyn Harris Portrait Carolyn Harris
- Hansard -

I am sure my hon. Friend was as shocked as I was to discover that the existing regulations have a poor rate of compliance. In 2013 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs commissioned a study that showed that 70% of ducks sampled had been killed with lead shot. The study was repeated in 2014 and showed that compliance had not improved, with an increased number of 77% of ducks sampled being shot illegally with lead.

Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for making that point, which illustrates how the existing arrangements are unsatisfactory and in some cases ineffective, which is why they need to be updated.

Birds die gradually from lead poisoning, but die they do. The WWT found that one in four migratory swans seen at post mortem had died of lead poisoning. Other leading conservation organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Wildlife Trusts have also highlighted lead poisoning as a major issue for UK wildlife. Yet we continue to spray about 5,000 tonnes of lead out over the countryside each year.

Why have more people signed the petition to keep lead? I could argue that it is a classic case of small interest groups rallying around to defend their privileges. I could blame the shooters for looking after their own interests to the detriment of wildlife and the general public. People are rarely vocal about long-term environmental consequences, or about widespread public benefits. By contrast, it is easy to portray the proposal to ban lead as an attack on country life, prompting a rush to oppose any change—but this is no attack on the countryside. The irony is that it is surely rural communities who would benefit most from a change in the law to phase out the use of lead ammunition.

Some people will point out that most of the lead that the public consume comes from vegetables. That is true, but people who eat game meat are far more exposed. It is not only the shooters themselves; we must also consider their families and the increasing number of people who eat game. Many game birds sold for human consumption have lead concentrations far exceeding European Union maximum levels for meat from cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. No maximum levels have been set for game.

Simply removing lead shot from the meat does not solve the problem, because particles of lead too small to be seen often break off or dissolve and are left in the meat.