Urgent call for meeting before incinerator is signed off

Pathway view of the proposed incinerator 

Pathway view of the proposed incinerator - Credit: LDRS

Campaigners are calling for an emergency meeting before the multi-million-pound contract for a controversial incinerator is signed.

Seven councils are part of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which disposes of waste collected by Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest councils.

Last month, NLWA approved a new, enlarged incinerator – to open by 2025 – which could handle some of north London’s growing waste for half a century.

There will also be new reuse and recycling, education and visitor centres at the site.

The scheme could cost between £650million to £1.2billion.

NLWA says the incinerator will generate power for up to 127,000 homes and heat for up to 50,000 homes a year.

Now campaigners including Extinction Rebellion (XR) want councils to have an eleventh-hour rethink before signing the contract with Acciona to get the project underway.

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They say the plans will add to air pollution and create carbon. They said it could also act as a disincentive to increasing recycling rates.

They want the various councils to hold emergency meetings before the contract is signed.

The decision to approve the new incinerator was agreed upon in December.
The contract with Acciona is due to be formally signed on January 18.

Campaigners told north London councillors they fear the environmental and health impacts of the incinerator. They claim it will be north London’s biggest producer of carbon emissions.

Haringey Council did not vote to approve the new incinerator.
At December’s NLWA meeting, Islington’s executive member for the environment Rowena Champion said: “It is about the most socially responsible option.

“What is important is that we do what we can to reduce the impact.”

She said she hoped it was “the last incinerator generation” and added that a new incinerator was “the best worst option”.

Islington Green councillor Caroline Russell proposed a pause in a motion at December’s full council meeting.

She said: “Burning waste doesn’t make it go away. Every tonne that’s incinerated produces hazardous waste that requires further treatment.”

Campaigners from the Enfield and Haringey COP26 Coalition Local Hub, which includes Islington XR, said after the crunch climate emergency conference that “expanding incineration is an act of climate idiocy”.

They claim the incinerator “will be the largest single source of carbon emissions in north London”.

In a letter, they warned: “Instead of making a real difference to the health and the quality of life of the people who live near the incinerator, a real opportunity has been lost.

“Instead of bold vision and action, that changes the status quo for the better, the vote for incineration has incentivised the worst aspects and excesses of the current situation.”

Signatories, which also include Stop the Edmonton Incinerator group, Hackney’s Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre Day Mer, and Climate Action Forum, said the decision “stands against reason” after cross-party calls in parliament for a pause on the expansion.

They predict that a direct vote among residents from the seven boroughs that run the incinerator would be “overwhelmingly against” it.

Instead, they want to see north London’s low recycling rates of 30 per cent boosted. They fear that a larger incinerator will detract from encouraging more recycling, composting and developing a circular economy in which items are not used just once before being discarded.

Islington Council’s executive is set to discuss its first circular economy action plan this week.

It declared a climate emergency in 2019 and has ambitious plans to be net carbon zero by 2030.

It said schemes are already underway and “the NLWA is working to ensure collected recycling is processed in the UK where possible”.

The campaigners said: “The NLWA will potentially end up with a white elephant, a stranded asset, that will further act to encourage the commodification and profitability of waste generation at the expense of recycling initiatives.”