A review into the the role of incineration in the waste hierarchy in Scotland has concluded that no new sites should be built - potentially throwing plans for a site at Killoch into doubt.

The report was commissioned by Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater in November 2021 to find out if the industry was "locking in" waste by creating a demand at incinerator sites.

The report, called Stop, Sort, Burn, Bury? published yesterday (Tuesday, May 10) follows an independent review by Dr Colin Church, CEO of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

It made 14 recommendations, including that the Scottish Government should ensure that no further planning permission is granted to incineration infrastructure.

Hundreds of objections have been raised against the Killoch site being proposed by Barr Environmental.

Read more: Incinerator plan gets more than 500 objections

However, if ministers decide to act on this review, the Barr Killoch plant plans could potentially still be approved, with an addendum included in the recommendation to block all incinerator plans, which says that in the case that the local authority does not have a solution in place to address the landfill ban, which is due to come in in 2025, then plans could still be approved.

From 2025 local authorities will be banned from sending residual waste to landfill, the report states that East Ayrshire Council does not currently have a solution.

Cumnock Chronicle:

Gavin Ramsey from Barr Environmental, said: We’re pleased the report has been published and we look forward to receiving more clarity on the recommendations being made.”

The report suggests that there could be a "capacity gap" by the time the landfill ban comes to pass. To address that, the report says effort should be made to achieve Scotland's waste and recycling targets.

However, stakeholders raised concerns about the likelihood of achieving these targets, drawing on experience and comparisons with other nations as evidence of what could be possible.

The report also recommends that "an indicative cap for the residual waste treatment needed in Scotland should be developed, and that this should decline over time as Scotland transitions towards a fully circular economy."

It continues: "The best form of residual waste treatment is preventing it occurring in the first place, through reducing waste and recycling. The Review recommends that the Scottish Government does more to reduce the proportion of recyclable materials in the residual waste stream."

Read more: New images released showing what Killoch incinerator would look like

Dr Church said it was clear that more must be done to reduce the climate impacts of waste incineration.

He said: "Whilst well-regulated incineration does have a role to play in managing unavoidable residual waste in Scotland, the capacity currently being proposed is likely to be more than needed, so a lot of it should not be built.

"For the proportion that is developed, the level and quality of engagement with local communities needs to be excellent, which unfortunately has not always been the case to date."

The Scottish Government will set out its initial response to the review in June and will launch public consultations on a Circular Economy Bill and a waste route map this month.

Campaign group Say No to an incinerator Barr/ Killoch welomed the report's findings. A spokesperson for the group told the Chronicle: "The report shows an alarming rise in incineration in Scotland and highlights the very real potential for over capacity and commercially pursuing developments out stripping Scotland’s needs.

“In all three scenarios, facilities currently with a “planning granted” or “proposed” would not be required if the other facilities that are fully consented or under construction become operational.” (ref 3.4.2 capacity requirements in the review document Stop, Sort, Burn, Bury (www.gov.scot))

"This demonstrates one point which the group had been very vocal about.  That the Killoch Incinerator is not required to help solve the problems associated with the landfill ban in 2025.

"Barr/ Killoch is marked on the review with the status “proposed” due to the application still being in planning with East Ayrshire council.  With there currently being another public consultation on the EIA addendum, which planning asked Barr for more information. The public consultation deadline is Sunday May 15th.

"It looks like the review has confirmed there is no geographical or capacity need for the incinerator at Killoch and hopefully as advised East Ayrshire council will take this into account. With the current, previous, and future planning applications at the Killoch site, which is what we have been pursuing."

Ms Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party said: “I would like to thank Dr Church for delivering this work, which will play a pivotal role in shaping Scotland’s future waste policy.

“We want to create a circular economy, where materials stay in use for as long as possible, and nothing is wasted. Only by increasing reuse and recycling can Scotland meet its net zero targets, and we will be publishing ambitious proposals to achieve this soon.

“It is clear from the review that although incineration has a role to play in managing Scotland’s unavoidable, unrecyclable residual waste in a safe way, that role is inevitably limited. As we transition to a circular economy, Scotland will need significantly less incineration capacity than is currently projected and it is vital that we do not have more capacity than we need.

“Dr Church has proposed some valuable recommendations and outlined some important considerations for how we can align the management of residual waste in Scotland with our net zero ambitions. We will consider the recommendations carefully and provide an initial response in June.”

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the recommendations.

Kim Pratt, circular economy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This report shows that the alarming rise in incineration in Scotland must be stopped immediately - rapid action is needed to prevent the loss of valuable resources and stop the climate-wrecking emissions being caused by burning plastics.

“A ban on new incinerators is the first step in turning Scotland’s waste management system around, but it’s only half of the solution. The report makes it clear that more must be done to minimise waste and recycle as much as possible."

She added: “Our current incinerators are some of Scotland’s biggest polluters so they must be phased out if Scotland is to meet its climate goals. It is concerning that the report does not include a detailed carbon assessment, given the direct threat of incinerators to our climate goals.

“Burning plastic releases more carbon than coal and the only way to cut emissions from incineration for good is to stop burning waste. We need to value resources properly, rather than taking from nature, using once then burning or burying the waste.”

South Scotland MSP Carol Mochan has hailed the recommendation in the report. She said: “Clearly the Scottish Government have to take this review seriously and I will be pushing them to accept its recommendations. If the SNP are genuinely committed to preventing climate catastrophe, incineration is not an option, and this review makes that plain.

“In terms of the proposed incinerator at Ochiltree – that plan should be dead in the water. I have opposed it from the beginning but more importantly, so have the residents in and around the site.

“So I say to the council that the community is against it, independent experts think further developments are foolish, and the Government seem to be moving away from incineration altogether.

"Stop the plans and let’s find an alternative that does not lead to so many objections from hard working people who don’t want rubbish burned on their doorstep.”