Call for pause on incinerator plans: ‘If we are serious about net zero we must reduce the turnover of stuff in the borough’

Protesters outside Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Protesters were left disappointed after politicians rejected a plea to pause a decision to power ahead with a controversial new £683 million pound incinerator in Edmonton.

The council rejected a motion by Green councillor Caroline Russell to “pause and review” the evidence for the incinerator which North London Waste Authority wants to build to replace an ageing 1970s one to deal with the rubbish people throw away.

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

Campaigners from across north London staged a protest outside Islington town hall. They said incineration produces pollutants which could cause ill health, discourages recycling and creates harmful carbon dioxide which causes global warming.

The move comes before a crunch meeting on Thursday (16 December) where it is likely to get the go-ahead.

However Haringey Council, which is one of the owners, said it thinks there should be a pause to look at the evidence.

The new incinerator would have an increased capacity to handle the extra rubbish it  predicts north Londoners will throw away as the population grows.

The incinerator will also deal with rubbish collected by  Barnet, Enfield, Hackney, Camden, Waltham Forest councils.

Cllr Russell  said the proposed capacity for the amount of waste is too high.

She said building the incinerator will mean there is no incentive to reduce more waste.

“If we are serious about net zero we must reduce the turnover of stuff in the borough.”

Protesters claimed the incinerator was also “environmental racism” as it will be built in a deprived area of Enfield and black communities living nearby will be affected.

Design Edmonton incinerator NLWA

Design for the new ‘energy recovery facility’. Image: NLWA

Cllr Russell said the council should look at the evidence anew “before committing ourselves to a dinosaur project that goes on for ever and ever.”

Politicians backing the pause include former Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and Catherine West,  Hornsey and Wood Green MP, a previous leader of Islington  council.

Resident Ben Griffith from Islington Environmental Emergency Alliance appealed to councillors to reject the incinerator.

He is staging a council tax strike – by withholding a portion of his bill in protest at the move.

He said: “Instead of the incinerator, we can sort our waste into its constituent parts. We can educate, support and incentivise the general public to do this. We can pressure companies to reduce waste. We can invest in mixed waste sorting technology.”

Rowena Champion, Islington’s politician with responsibility for the environment and transport said: “Pause and review sounds reasonable but no reason why it would be effective.”

“No one suggested that there will be something other than  a substantial amount of waste generated” in the future, she said.

“We don’t want the incinerator if we don’t have to [have one].”

She pointed out that as the plant is owned by the councils they would have “democratic control” over it and make the case “for the highest possible environmental standards”.

She said the new facility, which includes an improved recycling centre would save 215,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, compared with sending it to landfill.  The heat generated will also provide energy for 127,000 homes and 50,000 homes and businesses.

Cllr Champion added: “You might disagree with the decision, but we believe we are making the best decision for people we represent.”

Cllr Gary Heather (Labour, Finsbury Park) said he had to “search my soul” before backing the decision but said if the waste is not incinerated it will end up in landfill.

“Pause and review is kicking the can down the road.”

Protesters vow to carry on campaigning, with a delegation at Hackney’s cabinet meeting (Monday 13 December) and protests outside the NLWA meeting on Thursday (16 December).