Five years of achievement transforming Edmonton EcoPark 

23 Jan 2024

The nationally significant North London Heat and Power Project has reached a significant milestone: five years of work completed to transform waste and recycling services at Edmonton EcoPark in Enfield. 

World-class infrastructure has been built or is currently under construction – facilities which will tackle north London’s waste in the most sustainable way possible whilst capturing more materials for recycling. Commissioned by the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), all the EcoPark’s facilities are publicly owned and are for the benefit of two million north London residents. 

A vast new Resource Recovery Facility (RRF) is at final commissioning stage before it begins to operate at full capacity in early Spring, when up to 135,000 tonnes of recyclable materials will be processed each year. Its roof features 2,235 solar panels – enough to cover a football pitch – which can generate more than nine hundred thousand kilowatts of renewable energy per year, the equivalent of powering 300 homes with electricity. The panels will bring carbon savings too, comparable to the CO₂ absorbed by over 10,000 trees per year. 

Throughout the project, innovative techniques have minimised the environmental impact of construction. For example, the site was the first in the UK to trial the use of ultra-low carbon concrete. An innovative piling technique for the RRF, along with stabilisation of the ground, reduced embodied carbon. While 99.9% of non-hazardous construction waste has been diverted from landfill through reuse, recycling, and energy recovery. 

Alongside the RRF, there is a new public Reuse and Recycling Centre, a visitor and community centre called EcoPark House, and a district heating energy centre, which will supply heating and hot water to local housing developments. The source of the heat will come from the high-tech Energy Recovery Facility, which lies to the north of the RRF. It will use the world’s most advanced technologies to capture pollutants, including Selective Catalytic Reduction to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides to a level 60% lower than the minimum standards. The construction of the Energy Recovery Facility is well underway, with the bunker where bin-bag waste will be tipped now taking shape. It will replace the current energy-from-waste plant, which first began operating in 1971. 

NLWA Chair, Cllr Clyde Loakes, noted how construction had successfully coexisted with the EcoPark’s daily operations to process hundreds of thousands of tonnes of bin bag waste from north London homes. “Across the project, there’s been exemplary collaboration between all the organisations involved in construction and daily operations,” Cllr Loakes said. 

Since preparatory works began in January 2019, more than five thousand people have worked on the many aspects of the project. Thirty-nine apprentices have joined to date as well as 194 local people (school/college leavers or previously without work) who have trained on-site. There will be many more employment, training, and highly skilled apprenticeship opportunities in coming phases of the project to complete the Energy Recovery Facility. 

Over the past five years, the project has also delivered a huge amount of social value and community engagement, which has resulted in nominations and the winning of twenty awards across a variety of categories. These include ‘Best Sustainable Brownfield Infrastructure Scheme’ and a ‘Culture and Diversity Award’. Cameron Flanagan won New Civil Engineer’s ‘Apprentice of the Year’ in 2021.  

Another major award was Institute of Economic Development’s ‘Most Innovative Project of the Year’ award for the schools’ programme.  

Cllr Loakes said, “More than 2,500 students across 52 schools in north London have attended our dedicated schools' programme. Young people have heard about the career paths of professionals working to transform the EcoPark as well as those working in recycling, energy recovery, and waste-related careers. Many of those who attended have said that consequently they are more likely to pursue further study, apprenticeships and careers in science, technology, engineering, and maths.  

“Likewise, through our RePower Communities scheme, we’ve extended the scope of our support through the awarding of small grants and donations of materials and volunteer time to north London community groups. From replacing worn-out floors in a community building to buying tools to tend the gardens at a children’s hospice, I am proud of the way we are helping to improve the lives and wellbeing of local people.” 

Reflecting on the project’s many successes over the last five years, Cllr Loakes said: “NLWA has set the benchmark for the building of world-class infrastructure required to help the UK economy transition to a more circular and environmentally sustainable one. It’s a project too that’s ensuring there’s a positive legacy for local people.   

“In the coming decades, there are likely to be many environmental and social challenges – in north London, with advanced facilities in place, we can deal with relevant challenges with confidence whilst helping build towards a more sustainable and equitable future.”