Our meeting with No-Incinerator activists

Report of our meeting with anti-incinerator activists (CARP), Turin

On February 19th, 2013 some school classes attended a meeting with campaigners against the new incinerator of Turin. There is a whole network of anti-incinerator groups and committees in different Italian cities and towns, those which have such a plant.

Luisa Memore  is a doctor, she focused her speech on dioxins and the dangers for health. In the areas where an incinerator is already present, like the town of Brescia in the north of Italy, the percentage of heavy metals in the body of children has arisen, and a meaningful increase of cancer and repiratory illnesses has been reported, especially in women and children.

Because we are a school of Graphics, Dr. Memore  showed us some advertisements in favour of the incinerator and analysed them in the light of the information we had just acquired concerning all dangers to health. These two ads were taken into account because they look false and deceptive.

The second activist, Walter Campaner, showed us a lot of chemical data on air pollution, but because we haven’t  studied Chemistry it was a bit difficult to follow.

He explained that incinerators are industrial complexes that, though they are portrayed as perfect plants, involve in any case the escape of fumes containing chemicals hazardous to health. Just think of the fact that these plants operate continuously, 24 hours a day, over an entire year, except for moments dedicated to maintenance tasks. In case of failure or damage, it takes days before the Turin province decides to do something about it, and in the meantime emissions keep going.

In this way each incinerator involves the emission into the atmosphere of millions of cubic meters of toxic fumes per day, dioxins and other 200/250 different chemical compounds that can create health problems. Extremely fine dusts, for example, which are always produced through a combustion process, manage to enter the organism due to their tiny size, causing respiratory and metabolic problems in general (by altering the functionality of specific target organs).

In addition, the incinerator is one of the most expensive methods to dispose of waste.

Besides, it is not a certainty for waste reduction since it fails to dispose  more than 70% of the garbage. In Italy the term “incineritore” is often replaced in official reports by the euphemism “termovalorizzatore”, meaning “that employs, values the heat produced through combustion”. This term is totally inappropriate, because the amount of energy obtainable from the waste combustion process, is much smaller than the output of any traditional powerhouse, and the entire incineration process (from the collection to the disposal of waste ash) consumes much more energy than the one necessary for the segregation of waste and recycling processes.

.Finally, it was the students’ turn to ask questions. They asked: “Are you able to tell us any concrete alternatives to the incinerator?”. The answer, said the experts, lies in the fact that we must reduce that amount of non-recyclable rubbish to the minimum. It’s up to us as consumers to choose and make the difference. Each person has the chance to buy products with little or mono-material packaging, easy to be recycled. If, for example, the bag of biscuits I want to buy is non-recyclable, then I can look for another one. Also, we can take part in campaigns to urge the Italian State to make laws that (already present in other States) prevent large companies from using a thousand boxes and plastic bags and help them using eco-friendly ones (through de-taxation). Using non-recyclable, heavy packaging must be forbidden or made less profitable economically (e.g. heavily taxed) but it isn’t like that in Italy yet! They mentioned the example of Ferrero Rocher that are sold in just one plastic bag in Germany, in Italy we need to be “seduced” by 3 different useless pieces of packaging!!  It would be interesting to see if such eco-friendly laws exist in other countries. And what they say.

All in all, we feel a bit helpless and discouraged at the end of the meeting. Anyway, the meeting was interesting and it helped us raise our awareness on the topic. We feel that we want to know more…