Incinerator plan is the real waste

Thursday, 2nd December 2021


The Edmonton incinerator

• THE letter from Cllr Clyde Loakes, chair of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), raises more concerns about plans to build a new waste incinerator in Edmonton, one of the UK’s most deprived areas, (Climate Emergency Camden were wrong, November 25).

He says NLWA is leading the way locally and nationally when it comes to recycling tricky items. But if that is the case, then where are north London’s recycling services for nappies, sanitary products, and various plastics?

A quick search shows that Wales already recycles nappies and sanitary products, and the waste management company SUEZ will trial flexible plastic collections with many local authorities next year.

Cllr Loakes also talks about the need for waste prevention and reuse. Yet neither NLWA nor its seven constituent boroughs have targets for preventing tricky-to-recycle waste; or any waste, for that matter.

He says that NLWA has called on the government to usher in “systemic change” to drive down waste. But where is his acknowledgement that this change is well under way?

The government has already laid the groundwork for banning single-use plastics, introducing mandatory food waste collection and deposit return schemes, charging producers so that councils can be funded to manage packaging, and making collections more consistent.

Next year it aims to consult on mandatory textile collections and statutory waste reduction targets. All these government measures will drive a massive reduction in the amount of waste going to incineration.

But NLWA is dismissing the writing on the wall and building the incinerator anyway; based on a 2015 assessment that incorrectly predicted growth in the amount of waste we produce.

Our waste authority is acting as though nothing has happened since 2015, while calling on the government to do what it is already doing.

But there’s more. Cllr Loakes writes that the councils’ contracts with the NLWA will have “no set quantities or tonnages of material” designated for incineration.

Yet if the incinerator is to produce heat for 50,000 homes, then surely the heat offtake contracts will require a certain amount of waste. Who would want to sign a lease to live in a home whose heat source is not guaranteed?

Let’s leave aside that incinerator heat is four times more carbon-intensive than heat from the national grid, which residents could rely on if they used heat pumps.

This behaviour is unacceptable in a climate and ecological emergency, and it calls into question NLWA’s credibility and fiduciary conduct, as well as the constituent councils’.

The transition to a circular economy is revving up, as anyone with their finger on the waste pulse will have gathered. That translates into less waste for incineration and thus lower capacity requirements.

In this context, building an incinerator using flawed, outdated forecasts – only to shut half of it down later – is nothing short of a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

That money would be much better spent on waste prevention, reuse, and recycling, as part of a zero-waste strategy for north London.


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