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I really appreciate you calling me to speak, Sir Roger. I congratulate my hon. Friend Mrs Hodgson on securing this timely debate.
Edmonton has one of London’s three major waste incineration facilities. The incinerator serves the North London Waste Authority and the seven north London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest. The current facility, which is over 45 years old, is reaching the end of its life, and a decision has been reached to replace it with a new energy recovery facility, which it is claimed will supply both heat and power. Last year, construction of the north London heat and power project began. Many of my constituents are incredibly concerned about the decision and what it will mean for their health and their children’s future.
I argue for an immediate pause and review of the construction of the new facility for three main reasons. First, there is growing evidence that the new incinerator poses a major health risk. Across London, our children already face a toxic air pollution crisis, and residents in Edmonton are at the centre of it, not least because of the constant traffic on the North Circular. According to King’s College London and the international clean air summit, high pollution days in London lead to an extra 87 cardiac arrests, 144 strokes, and 74 children and 33 adults being treated in hospitals for asthma attacks. That is why we must listen to the evidence on waste incineration.
Zero Waste Europe recently released an in-depth study on a waste incineration plant in the Netherlands, revealing how even state-of-the-art incinerators emit dangerous pollutants far beyond EU toxic emissions limits. The study found, for example, that eggs laid by chickens in people’s backyards within a 2 km radius showed dioxin and furan contamination exceeding the limits for safe consumption. We know that, as a result, the developing lungs of children can be irreparably damaged and have their function restricted, making illnesses such as asthma and respiratory disease worse.
It is thought that the new incinerator in Edmonton will produce more than 700,000 tonnes of CO2 every year. Research shows that particulates such as those currently emitted at the Edmonton incinerator cause the loss of an area the size of two large eggs in the lungs of every child. There is no filter on the planet that can capture those particles, which are free to lodge themselves deep in our lungs and other organs and cause permanent damage.
In Edmonton, the incinerator under construction is in close proximity to schools including Raynham Primary School, Meridian Angel Primary School, Wilbury Primary School, Eldon Primary School and the Latymer School. All the evidence suggests that, once it is completed, it will pour even greater amounts of pollution into my constituents’ bodies, with long-term public health consequences. All environmental and public health policy should be based on the precautionary principle that, where reasonable doubt exists over the safety of an initiative, it is paused or blocked until rigorous, independent evidence can be heard to inform a proper decision. That simple principle is why I ask the Government and Enfield Council to pause, review and consult on the decision.
Secondly, the new incinerator threatens to undermine and take resources away from London’s waste management strategy. The Mayor’s London environment strategy aims for 50% of waste to be recycled, up from the current rate of 33.1%. Enfield Council is rightly backing the push and has launched a new recycling arrangement across Edmonton. The vast majority of my constituents welcome the new recycling and reuse centre as a necessary addition to the Barrowell Green site. It will give the east side of the borough much easier access to recycling facilities, but if the Government or the council are serious about achieving these green strategies, we must back them with proper resources.
The new incinerator will have a vast capacity of 700,000 tonnes of waste per year, but if we deliver on London’s plan to increase recycling, it is hard to conceive why we could possibly need that much capacity. We all know that money is tight. In April, Enfield Council will make bin collections fortnightly in a bid to save £12 million, yet the projected cost for the rebuild of the incinerator is an astonishing £650 million, funded by a loan that will end up being repaid by council tax payers across the seven boroughs.
The London Mayor has been clear that central Government and local council support for incinerators is critically undermining the capital’s fight against air pollution. Speaking about a proposed incinerator in Bexley, he called on the Government not to grant permission for an unnecessary new incinerator and instead
“focus on boosting recycling rates, reducing the scourge of plastic waste and tackling our lethal air.”
That same principle applies to the new incinerator in Edmonton.
Thirdly, I know the Minister will not want to impose a new incinerator on local residents without properly engaging with what they have to say. Toxic air pollution is worsening and our health is at risk. London has signed up to increase and to resource recycling, our Mayor is against unnecessary incineration, our residents are against the incinerator, and the Government have just been elected on a platform of promising to listen to people and put decision-making power in local hands. I am confident that the Minister will want to keep that promise and avoid forcing a decision on local residents in Edmonton.
I conclude by inviting the Minister to come to Edmonton and chair a roundtable discussion with my constituents, Enfield Council and local environmental groups. I firmly believe my constituents must be at the heart of deciding what happens next. I hope the Minister will agree at least to listen to what they have to say and to the growing evidence against the new incinerator in Edmonton.