Waste Incineration Facilities — [Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:08 am on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Elliot Colburn Elliot Colburn Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington 10:08 am, 11th February 2020

I absolutely agree. That is part of the reason I am campaigning for additional air quality monitoring near the Beddington site. I appreciate that incinerator operators are supposed to monitor their own emissions, and that the information is sent automatically to the Environment Agency. However, many of us are trying to make the point that it is not just a question of the incinerator itself: a lot more is going on—especially with the transport of waste to the site. That produces CO2, but it does not get taken into account in the emissions figures. That is why additional air quality monitoring and factually based evidence are important. I will move on to some facts, which the hon. Gentleman may find interesting.

Because of the consistency of breaches at the Beddington incinerator, the Environment Agency has increased the frequency of reporting from every half hour to every 10 minutes. The 10-minute maximum imposed by the Environment Agency is, I believe, 150 mg per cubic metre. On 26 January, the emissions from just one of the Beddington incinerator’s two chimneys were nearly five times that level, and consequently it was shut down for two days. The other chimney was even worse and exceeded emissions limits on 2, 14, 20 and 26 January. On 26 January the level was 10 times over the limit. To add insult to injury, the operators were still registering at least one invalid report almost every day of the month.

No one says that landfill is the alternative, or any better. However, we—both councils and the country—need to be much more ambitious about cleaning up our air. With advances in technology, there are more air quality-friendly options even in the energy recovery stage, which is only one better than landfill on the waste hierarchy—things such as mechanical and biological treatment. Of course, as we have all said, we need to look much further up the waste hierarchy as we look towards a greener future. That means boosting recycling rates and reuse wherever possible.

However, as in everything, prevention is key—saying no to unnecessary waste and cutting it out of the system altogether. We can do much more than follow the poor example set by the council in my area. None of us has the power to promise our constituents that we can stop incinerator proposals or get live incinerators decommissioned, but, representing an area where an incinerator is already operational, I will continue to hold the council to account for its failure and to do whatever I can to mitigate its effects. As I have said, that includes improving both air quality monitoring and traffic measures on the Beddington Lane and insisting on the rapid completion of the proposed Beddington Farmlands, which is supposed to act as a CO2 capture for the incinerator site.

My hope is that those Members facing the threat of incinerators in their constituencies will be able to use the Beddington example to convince local authorities and the Government, where necessary, that there are better alternatives and to deliver a much greener waste disposal programme in their areas, rather than just having to carry out mitigation.