Doctors oppose proposed waste incineration regulation

Medical office - middle-aged male doctor greeting patient, shaking hands.

Ljubljana – Doctors trusted with monitoring, warning and raising awareness of the health risks of a contaminated environment are against a government proposal for a regulation on waste incineration. The regulation should set emission limit values as low as possible, they note, warning that waste incineration should be a last resort.

Public consultation on the Environment Ministry’s proposal was launched in mid-November and ended on 20 December. The draft regulation envisages concessions for four incinerator operators for a period of the next 30 years and sets out the selection criteria.

The proposal has been examined by a competent task force of the Medical Chamber. “The group is of the opinion that incineration should be the last choice regarding waste management when it comes to urgent national needs, and should be part of a comprehensive waste management plan,” said doctor Ana Mavrič at a press conference on Friday.

Moreover, the doctors believe that waste incineration concessions should be granted on the basis of precise calculations and projections, and environmental safety should be the top priority. Incineration should be carried out in incinerators equipped with technology that minimises emissions of harmful substances into the air, water and soil.

“The current selection criteria for concessionaires are inadequate and do not incentivise a reduction of environmental impacts,” Mavrič said.

They understand the proposal to mean that concessions can only be granted to incinerators and not to co-incinerators, and welcome this. “Legislation on co-incineration must be brought on an equal footing with incineration,” Mavrič added.

The group also calls for the full implementation this year of European requirements in waste incineration, which were updated in 2019 and are not met by existing Slovenian legislation.

Environmentalist NGOs have raised concerns about the proposal, particularly its lack of ambition in minimising health and environmental impacts.

Eko Krog highlighted the unknowns surrounding the construction of municipal waste incinerators. The organisation warned against what it sees as a potential repeat of the story of waste management centres, which are now, it said, characterised by overcapacity, poor equipment and high operating costs.

The first priority should be to reduce waste production and to promote recycling and reuse, said the NGO, adding that there was no exact data on how much waste there is in Slovenia, how much of it is imported and how much of it is incinerated at home.

“But if we’re considering incineration, the legislation should set maximum incineration capacities, not the number of incinerators,” Eko Krog noted.