Voting to replace the Edmonton Incinerator with a massive new one is the big test of how much the North London Labour Party cares about the environment. Local councillors in seven boroughs are due to agree on the plans tomorrow (16 December). These plans will impose a massive health hazard on local people, make climate change worse, and ensure that these councils remain amongst the worst at recycling in England.
With local elections happening in May, these councillors must be aware that the new incinerator will damage their prospects of being re-elected, as it provides a crystal clear dividing line with the Green Party’s long term opposition to these polluting towers.
Yesterday, a report by the all-party parliamentary group on air pollution said expansions should be halted immediately to protect human health and cut carbon emissions. Ultra-fine particles released by incineration at scale constitute a significant health hazard. The MPs heard from an oncologist who found heavy metals in the toenails of children living near incinerators and highlighted a link with acute childhood leukaemia.
My own report about London recycling rates in 2012 showed clear evidence that incineration stops the growth of recycling. That is why all seven of these London boroughs are in the bottom fifth of local authority recycling rates. In fact, Camden, Haringey, Islington and Hackney are all in the bottom 40 worst recyclers, and this new incinerator will condemn them to stay that way.
Campaigners have highlighted comments made by the CEO of the company due to build the incinerator that it is “massively oversized” – that means it will be burning material that should be recycled in order to feed it, and that, in turn, means more CO2 emissions. Given that we are meant to be moving towards net-zero emissions by 2050, why are we building an incinerator that will be pumping out greenhouse gases beyond 2050? It makes a mockery of councillors in Hackney and Islington declaring a climate emergency and is sheer hypocrisy when they committed to doing everything to reach net-zero.
Haringey council has called for a review of the decision and it still hangs in the balance. Make some noise and remind everyone that local elections are only five months away.