Protests are expected to take place at five sites consisting: the London Energy (previously London Waste) North London Waste Authority plant at Edmonton, North London; Veolia’s Portsmouth facility for Hampshire county council; the Eastcroft, Nottingham plant run by FCC Environment for the city council; the Coventry EfW plant; and Portland, Dorset where a new plant is proposed by Powerfuel Portland.
In a statement environmental campaigners said that across the UK they are “taking to the streets to call attention to the harms associated with the burning of plastic and other black bag waste. Just five weeks before COP26 and amid growing public concern about climate and ecological breakdown, they are launching the Stop the Burn campaign, with the backing of groups like Black Lives Matter, Greenpeace, the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), and XR Zero Waste.”
“England is set to have 50 new waste incinerators by 2030,” said Georgia Elliott-Smith, an environmental engineer and north London resident. “Incinerators profit from burning recyclable material like plastics and compostable food. Government data shows that in areas where incineration increases, recycling decreases. So we’re mobilizing and saying, ‘Stop this insanity and revisit the plans.”’
The campaigners say that incineration capacity in England is “poised to double this decade, at a time when the Climate Change Committee has called on the UK waste sector to halve its greenhouse gas emissions and the United Nations has issued a ‘code red’ warning for human-driven global heating.”
With the North London Waste Authority developing plans for a replacement facility for the existing energy from waste plant, there is some growing opposition to the idea of a new plant.
Ms Elliott-Smith, who will be marching in Edmonton, commented: “What we need is more waste prevention, reuse, repair, and recycling to slow climate collapse, but instead incinerator CO2 emissions are due to triple by the end of this decade. The new Edmonton incinerator alone will produce as much CO2 per year as an additional 250,000 diesel cars on the roads. This is simply not acceptable, and it doesn’t have to be this way.”
“Research shows that waste incinerators are three times more likely to be sited in poorer areas, such as Edmonton, which is among the most deprived in the country. The community here has a high proportion of people of colour, who are already disproportionately affected by the impacts of air pollution,” said Bhavini Patel, another north London resident and Extinction Rebellion spokesperson.
“We know that a growing number of scientific studies link long-term exposure to air pollution with a greater risk of serious medical conditions and premature death, including from infectious diseases,”said Delia Mattis, spokesperson for Black Lives Matter Enfield. She added: ‘Edmonton’s COVID death rate is 40% higher than the national average and life expectancy is generally lower here than elsewhere, so naturally people are worried about a new incinerator pumping out toxins for decades to come.’
In Nottingham, campaigners are due to be protesting outside the Eastcroft incinerator. The activists said that Nottingham city council has plans to expand the facility despite the city’s aim to be carbon neutral in 2028. They said that deputy leader Sally Longford had “referred to incineration as a clean, green energy option, which is better than landfill—an argument campaigners call out as industry greenwash that must be stopped by the Advertising Standards Authority and other agencies.”
The activists are also protesting against Nottinghamshire County Council’s plans to build a new incinerator at Ratcliffe-on-Soar.
In Portsmouth, XR Southsea campaigners are targeting the city’s Veolia incinerator as part of the nationwide anti-incineration campaign. One member of the group, Selma Heimedinger, said: ‘Incineration harms recycling rates and undermines any transition to a circular economy. The areas with the highest incineration rates have the lowest recycling rates, which we can see in Portsmouth, where recycling rates are way below the UK average.’
Incineration harms recycling rates and undermines any transition to a circular economy
– Selman Heimedinger, XR Southsea
During the protests, the environmental campaigners will highlight five key demands they are making to the government. They are calling on politicians to stop the construction of new incinerators, ban the burning of plastics by 2025, introduce a tax on incineration, commit to a phase-out of incineration, and publicly report all incinerator emissions.
Other concerns relate to incinerator contracts, which the activists say incentivise councils to redirect recyclables to incinerators to meet minimum tonnage requirements. “In such cases, incinerators burn more plastic and release more greenhouse gases and toxins into the air. If there is not enough waste to keep incinerators operating at capacity, then they can become stranded assets, leaving taxpayers to pay off useless infrastructure.”