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Members of the European Parliament asked for answers on burning waste

The incineration of waste in cement kilns is becoming the focus of the European Parliament because people are increasingly worried about its impact on public health.

Over the years, the impact of air pollution on public health has been fully proven. The risk of cancer and the increase in immune system, respiratory system, reproductive system and nervous system problems are all related to air pollution.

People living in urban areas have long realized that pollution sources such as traffic and heavy industry can harm their health. But few people know the problems caused by burning waste in cement kilns, although this practice is a persistent and growing problem. There are now encouraging signs that changes are taking place.

Permissible under regulations aimed at reducing the use of fossil fuels in the cement manufacturing process, burning "alternative fuels" in kilns-also known as "combined incineration"-has become more and more controversial, especially at distances from cement manufacturers The nearest affected community.

Understandably, these communities have mobilized against polluters and legislators. From the perspective of health and environmental risks, but also from the perspective of waste prevention. Once incinerators start operating, they require a continuous stream of waste to continue, so waste reduction measures are discouraged to maintain the supply of these kilns.

Grassroots protests succeeded in raising awareness and in some cases preventing this practice-especially in Slovenia, where local activism prevented cement giant Lafarge from burning waste in its kiln in Trbovlje. Environmental pressure groups have also brought this issue to the attention of the wider public, but they have made relatively little progress at a higher institutional level.

It has now changed. Members of the European Parliament representing local affected communities have been seeking answers from the European Commission regarding this practice; a huge step forward has been made in the movement to change the destructive habits of cement manufacturers and put the issue in the spotlight. An encouraging step.

“I am deeply concerned about the negative impact of coordinated incineration in cement kilns on the environment and human health,” said Piernicola Pedicini, the Italian Ministry of Environmental Protection. "After the Italian government passed a law that allows municipal waste to be burned as a secondary solid fuel, the local community in Barile first raised this issue with me. Many cement plants now find that waste incineration is profitable. I intend to use it in Europe and Italy. The level continues this battle."

Hot questions

The key questions raised by members of the European Parliament focused on how joint incineration complies with EU guidelines and regulations on waste and emissions, and what measures the committee will take to prevent further risks to public health.

In April of this year, Pedicini and colleague David Borrelli asked the committee what measures the committee would take to protect citizens from “increasing emissions of harmful pollutants and endangering public health”.

Together with MEP Ignazio Corrau, the two also asked why the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulations do not cover refuse-derived fuels (RDF).

Pedicini also questioned what measures the committee is taking to protect Barile’s public health, as the Constantinople Cement Plant reportedly violated emission restrictions.

At the same time, Florent Mercellesi of the Verts/ALE team asked the committee about Spain's compliance with the two emission directives and asked whether this requires investigation.

In a fierce written question about permits for incineration of waste in Greece, Sotirios Zarianopoulos, a member of the European Parliament, questioned the EU’s “green” growth and “climate change strategy”, which, in his view, aims to open up new opportunities for commercial companies. While neglecting the harmful effects on the environment and people’s health.

Dual purpose

These pioneering members of the European Parliament emphasized the struggles of local affected communities at the institutional level. In doing so, they reflected the strategy adopted: challenge legitimacy and raise awareness.

For example, since 1975, the community group Can Sant Joan in Montcada i Reixac near Barcelona has been demonstrating and challenging the Lafarge Cementos factory there.

A similar strategy is being used by the Asociación de Vecinos Morata de Tajuña group, which has collaborated with national and international groups to promote the issue of co-incineration and challenge the Cementos Portland Valderrivas factory there.

There are also hundreds of fights against coordinated incineration in cement kilns around the world. Many representatives will participate in the 3rd International Anti-Incineration Conference to be held in Apaxco, Mexico from November 24th to 26th.

The overall goal of the forum is to find local and global incineration alternatives. Technical, economic, environmental and social waste management solutions will be discussed in a series of lectures, seminars, conferences and exhibitions.

Burn out

But what are the alternatives? Cement is already one of the most energy-intensive industries in the world, and combined incineration is currently its preferred method of reducing fossil fuel emissions.

Activists said that incineration of waste in cement kilns is not a solution. They believe that policies and subsidies that support "waste-to-energy" incineration should shift to zero-waste and clean energy solutions.

As grassroots activist Uroš Macerl said when he won the Goldman Sachs Environmental Award earlier this year: “Incineration of garbage is crazy because it destroys natural resources. Burning garbage in cement plants is worse: it is a crime because it poisons To improve people and the environment-and get the support of lobbying legislation."

One thing is clear: there is a struggle between legislators and cement manufacturers because the issue of co-incineration is under increasing scrutiny at the local, national, international, and institutional levels.

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