Government blocks plan for Europe's biggest incinerator in London

Landmark decision is body blow to incinerator proposals across Britain

Feature story - 23 May, 2002
Greenpeace applauded the UK Government’s decision announced today to refuse permission on environmental grounds for a massive expansion of the Edmonton incinerator in North London.

Protest at incineration plant in Edmonton

The expansion would have turned the plant into the biggest household waste incinerator in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The proposed new rubbish burner would have caused an increase in dioxins and other cancer-causing chemicals released into the air and generated thousands of tonnes of highly contaminated ash for disposal in landfill sites each year.

The decision to turn down the proposal, because it would act as a disincentive to recycling beyond the statutory minimum, will have huge implications for other incinerator proposals around Britain. The Government was also concerned that any shortfall in waste delivered to Edmonton due to increased recycling would lead to waste being imported into the north London area - this too has significant implications for other incinerator proposals.

The Edmonton incinerator, already the biggest in Britain, has been the target of a massive campaign by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Londoners Against Incineration. In October 2000, Greenpeace volunteers occupied Edmonton's 100-metre chimney, shutting it down for four days. The volunteers were all acquitted of all charges by a London jury in a unanimous verdict in June the following year.

Greenpeace incineration campaigner Mark Strutt said,

"The Government has done the right thing. Stopping this mega-incinerator is good news for the health of British people and good news for the environment. The decision to stop Edmonton B will have massive implications for other proposals to burn waste and is a body blow to the whole incineration industry. It seems that the Government has finally got the message that incineration is a terrible way of dealing with household rubbish and people don't want to be poisoned by these polluting plants."

The Mayor of London has also strongly opposed the Edmonton expansion on health grounds, because it crowds out recycling and would undermine his own waste strategy.

The whole of the area surrounding Edmonton has already been designated an Air Quality Management Zone due to its unacceptably high levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, of which Edmonton is one source. Even Enfield council, who part own the plant, have said that the need for an expansion has not been shown. A council committee has said that the incinerator is badly run and that there is a potential conflict of interest in both representing the community and part owning the plant.