As the country recovers from the effects of multiple lockdowns, we have heard a lot about “building back better” – the idea that the pandemic has given us an, albeit unwelcome, opportunity to reshape our life.

For instance, we could look for ways to improve London’s air quality and reduce our CO2 emissions, be that through encouraging more walking and cycling, or changing the way we dispose of our waste.

There has been a waste incinerator in Edmonton since 1971, but it is now coming to the end of its life. It pumps tonnes of carbon dioxide, particulates, and other toxic gases out into the lungs of people living in one of the most deprived areas of the country. Incinerators are far more polluting than even coal-fired power plants, for example releasing 2.5 times as much CO2 and three times as much nitrous oxides. With 10,000 premature deaths linked to poor air quality in London every year, one might question whether building a new incinerator is the best use of taxpayers’ money.

Ham & High: Cllr Scott Emery joined the march against the proposed incineratorCllr Scott Emery joined the march against the proposed incinerator (Image: Cllr Scott Emery)

Not if you are a member of the North London Waste Authority, however. This group of seven, predominantly Labour-run, councils in north London, has put together proposals to rebuild it even bigger than before. This has been on the cards for several years, but rather than taking the pandemic as an opportunity to press pause on the project, and consider whether it is really the best use of residents’ council tax, our local Labour leaders are doubling down.

We, the Liberal Democrats, think this project is disastrous, backwards and a waste of money. The residents agree and were out in number last Saturday to show it, marching to the site in an effort to raise local awareness. It is estimated to cost over £1 billion yet is unlikely to be in use for even 15 years, as future climate laws and regulations will make it illegal.

The future of our country must involve a circular economy. We should be looking at ways to reduce our waste and even recover materials from it. We will continue to ask Haringey Council to reject this flawed plan and instead spend the money to improve our woeful 30% recycling rate. We must invest in the future, not build an expensive dinosaur to pump out noxious fumes, burning our money along with our waste.

Cllr Scott Emery (Muswell Hill) is opposition deputy whip and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the environment on Haringey Council.