The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has hailed its plans for the replacement of an incinerator as “crucial to tackling the climate emergency” – despite facing a legal challenge from environmental campaigners.
The NLWA claim that the carbon impact of two million Londoners could increase if the current incinerator at the Edmonton EcoPark is not redeveloped into a new Energy from Waste (EfW) facility.
Yet campaigners – some of which have launched a legal challenge against the plant – believe the air pollution and carbon emissions it would release are unacceptable in the midst of a ‘climate crisis’, claiming that residual waste should instead be sent to other nearby facilities.
The current Edmonton plant has a capacity of 500,000 tonnes and has been running since the early 1970s. The NLWA says that it will reach the end of its working life soon.
A replacement 700,00 tonne facility – which will generate both heat and power for the local area – was approved by the government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in 2017 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Construction of the plant began in January 2019 under a contract with Buckingham Group Contracting and it is expected to be operational in 2025 (see letsrecycle.com story).
But a legal challenge has been launched by the Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now group, who are asking BEIS to rethink their decision to allow Edmonton’s redevelopment on environmental grounds – they highlight that all councils in the NLWA, except Barnet, have passed climate emergency motions committing them to targets aimed at tackling the climate crisis.
In a meeting earlier this month the NLWA said it had “the strongest confidence that legal action will not succeed” and noted that reports said the government believes there is no reason to reopen the permission granted for the facility.
Cllr Clyde Loakes, chair of NLWA, claimed that any failure to build the plant would have a negative impact on carbon emissions.
He said: “Failure to build the new facility could result in 700,000 tonnes of our residents’ rubbish going to landfill each year, which would generate the equivalent of an extra 215,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the same pollution as putting an extra 110,000 cars on the road.”
“Dumping rubbish in landfill would also mean thousands more journeys by bin lorries travelling to the landfill site outside London, congesting roads and emitting more pollution.”
The NLWA is made up of seven boroughs in North London – Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest – which it estimates will generate around 850,000 tonnes of waste by 2025.
Shlomo Dowen – national coordinator for the UK Without Incineration Network – said the residual waste should be sent to other incinerators as further capacity becomes available.
He said: “The impending closure of the old Edmonton incinerator provides the North London Waste Partnership with a wonderful opportunity to support the move towards a more circular economy.
“The impending closure of the old Edmonton incinerator provides the North London Waste Partnership with a wonderful opportunity to support the move towards a more circular economy.”
“With the impending ban on single-use plastics coupled with increasing diversion of biowaste from landfill and incineration we can expect capacity to be freed up at existing incinerators. And if that were not enough reason not to build a new incinerator at Edmonton, the climate crisis provides a strong argument against the construction of any new incineration capacity.”
Mr Dowen added that 27.7 million tonnes of CO2 that would be released by a rebuilt Edmonton incinerator over the course of 40 years and noted “no wonder local residents oppose the rebuild.”
The NLWA said it is continually committed to constructing the project “safely, on time and on budget while also considering the needs of the community”.