Protesters rally against incinerator | Photo: Orlando da Rocha Hill Protesters rally against incinerator | Photo: Orlando da Rocha Hill

Activists take to the streets against the extension of a toxic incinerator in Edmonton, reports Orlando Hill

A small but determined and well represented group of activists and residents of the North London borough of Edmonton gathered on Saturday afternoon to say no to the extension of the incinerator located in the borough. The event was organised by Enfield’s Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, Stop the Burn and Unite Community. It had the support and solidarity of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT), the TUC and the Kurdish community (Day Mer).

The existing incinerator which dominates the skyline of Edmonton is reaching the end of its life. For fifty years it has been burning waste that could be recycled and creating toxic air pollution. Instead of taking the opportunity to bring a end to this wasteful and toxic business model, the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) representing seven North London boroughs (Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Islington, Camden and Barnet) is planning to build it even bigger. This is despite the fact that there already is an over-capacity of incinerators in London.

Waste for incineration has gone down year on year, which will force the import of waste from outside the seven boroughs it serves. According to Dominic Alexander, a North London activist and Counterfire member, we already import waste from as far as Germany. Extending the incinerator would only create an incentive to import more waste as fuel to generate electricity. Ironically at a time when countries across the planet are putting an end to this type of trade. 

NLWA argues the incinerator can be environmentally friendly because it is a combined heat and power plant, so it counts as renewable energy. However, this is a bit of a dodgy claim since it emits CO2 along with toxic pollutant particles. What the authority should be doing is making companies reduce packaging and change from non-recyclable to recyclable packaging. This way incinerators would gradually become unnecessary. 

Delia Mattis explained why Black Lives Matter is involved in stopping the extension of the incinerator. Black Londoners are exposed to higher rates of air pollution. “Most of these monstrosities are planted in deprived communities whose residents are mostly black or brown.” In her speech, she called Mayor Sadiq Khan to account:

“It is not enough for him to say he is against the extension, but not make a public announcement. The Labour party says it is against incinerators, but Labour-dominated councils keep pushing these kinds of projects.” 

“Young people are praised for speaking out about climate change by MPs who back projects like these”, argued Olivia Eken from Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCaf).

Sarah Eastwood, a local activist, declared that she was holding back £10 from her council tax until the NLWA halts its plan to extend the incinerator. “What is the point of declaring a climate emergency and building cycle lanes if I have to breathe toxic air while I cycle to work?”

Elaine Graham-Leigh, speaking for the People’s Assembly, said “it is right for people to call Labour councils to account, but we shouldn’t forget the Tories’ responsibility in implementing policies that endanger our environment.” She invited everyone to go to Manchester to protest outside the Tory Party Conference on Sunday 3 October. 

With the sound of Samba drums, the rally marched on to the site of the incinerator.

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Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.