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Opinion: Incinerator is no way to meet our local climate and ecological emergency targets

PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 June 2020

Dorothea Hackman continues to fight against the Edmonton incinerator.

Dorothea Hackman continues to fight against the Edmonton incinerator.

Archant

London’s water supply continues to be a major concern for us all to consider seriously and urgently: 22 per cent of our water comes from the Colne Valley aquifer, and HS2 is being allowed to contaminate it with pile driving.

An artist's impression of what the new energy recovery facility could look like. Picture: Grimshaw ArchitectsAn artist's impression of what the new energy recovery facility could look like. Picture: Grimshaw Architects

I understand Affinity water have been refused permission to send us Watford’s water instead, so there could be a significant water shortage here during the summer drought. It is baffling that the government are even allowing HS2 to continue when the £106 billion is so badly needed elsewhere (rebellion.earth/event/h2o-not-hs2/).

So it was this last week, where culture and environment scrutiny declined to hear a deputation from Extinction Rebellion Camden asking for pause and review on the massively oversized proposed new Edmonton incinerator. And while cabinet allowed the ask to be made, they nodded through an anodyne Climate Action Plan as if nothing had been said.

Councillors did not even seem to have done their preliminary reading, and struggled to ask any questions. They have received a detailed carefully-evidenced and annotated refutation of the North London Waste Authority response to the Extinction Rebellion March letter, and perhaps they preferred to remain silent in the face of overwhelming evidence to reconsider building such enormous overcapacity, now that we have recognised the climate and ecological emergency (stop-edmonton-incinerator.org/extinction-rebellion-rebuttal/).

The incredibly huge incinerator will burn 700,000 tons of refuse each year, including recycling and plastic. Because this will be part of a heat and power project, the pretence is that it can be offset through creative accountancy and is only 28,000 tons, as if the real amount hadn’t been burnt and polluted the air we breath.

An artist's impression of what the new energy recovery facility could look like. Picture: Grimshaw ArchitectsAn artist's impression of what the new energy recovery facility could look like. Picture: Grimshaw Architects

This is not a binary choice between incineration and landfill; we have to recycle and live within the means of our planet.

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Camden and six other north London boroughs planned in 2015 to build this even bigger replacement for the Edmonton incinerator before there was public awareness of the damage it would do.

It is an unjustifiably large incinerator that is way beyond need and will lock the north London boroughs into high waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions for decades.

Dorothea Hackman, Camden Civic SocietyDorothea Hackman, Camden Civic Society

We already have incineration overcapacity in the UK and could just as easily send the little refuse that actually needs incineration to Essex, as to the Lee Valley. The current incinerator burns nearly 70 per cent of household rubbish, and up to 60pc of that is plastic that could be recycled.

Burning plastic is a terrible way to generate heat and energy; we need to install heat pumps and reduce the manufacture of plastic.

Areas that have incinerators recycle only 30pc of their waste, areas without incinerators recycle 60pc. And so it is with Camden: for the third year running we have recycled only 30pc; missing the 50pc target for 2020.

We could be establishing a green industry with job creation: sorting our recycling, putting Camden firmly onto the circular economy of reusing and repairing, not wasting.

So keep London’s water clean, don’t let HS2 pollute the Colne Valley aquifer, and let’s not build a ludicrously large incinerator in Edmonton that will lock us into burning our refuse for decades and prevent us from reducing our carbon emissions.

This is no way to meet our local climate and ecological emergency targets, let alone the Paris agreement, nor the UK national target of zero emissions by 2050. This matters for our grandchildren. Do it now.


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