Extinction Rebellion Waltham Forest member Will Farbrother on why the group is opposing the Edmonton incinerator rebuild
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has written to more than 400 North London councillors, including all councillors in Waltham Forest, calling for them to pause work on building a new incinerator at Edmonton until after an independent review is completed.
We are confident that such a review would lead councils to conclude that the project is no longer viable. The seven North London Waste Authority (NLWA) boroughs – Barnet, Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Islington and Camden – should instead focus on structural reforms to reduce waste. More than half of the materials being burned in Edmonton, which includes a large amount of plastic, is recyclable, while the smaller quantity of residual waste can be dealt with in a more responsible manner.
We need to act now to stop this project, which will lock us into high waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions for decades. Construction of the new incinerator is due to begin at the end of 2022, as part of the £1.2 billion ‘North London Heat and Power Project’ led by NLWA. Our councillors should take advantage of this narrow window of opportunity to launch an independent review of the project.
It is possible to combine fiscal responsibility with sustainability when dealing with North London’s waste, but not if we spend so much money on an incinerator. In response to our letter, councils have gone on the defensive, arguing that our data is incorrect. In fact, our letter is heavily annotated, unlike the councils’ communications. One NLWA member told the Hackney Citizen that XR had overstated the new incinerator’s carbon emissions, but his logic rested on an accounting sleight of hand. Regardless of how the carbon is counted, the impact will be massive and the project is clearly incompatible with the climate emergency. Moreover, the projections the NLWA made about how much residual waste North London would need to burn are already proven to be highly overstated.
As well as carbon emissions there is also our health to consider. Air quality in Waltham Forest is dangerously poor, and continuing to burn North London’s rubbish on our doorstep – just half-a-mile from Chingford – will not help. The current Edmonton incinerator released more than one tonne of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in 2018, according to figures released by the operator. Public Health England data shows that our borough had the second-worst concentration of PM 2.5 in England that same year. The government itself states there is “increasing evidence” that particulate matter leads to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, which can be fatal. A new filter on the incinerator cannot capture these tiny particles.
We must come together to stop this project. Please join our campaign.
Read the full letter written to local councillors by Extinction Rebellion: