NLWA responds to London energy recovery report by Air Quality Consultants Ltd (2019)

22 Oct 2020

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Chair of the North London Waste Authority, said:

“I’m very concerned about this report because it makes a number of inaccurate claims about energy from waste facilities.  

I am pleased, however, it confirms the clear scientific consensus on modern energy from waste facilities that they pose an exceedingly low health risk, and there is no consistent evidence that they are a major source of particulates, toxic metals and organic chemicals. This is backed up by an extensive academic review by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, which is referenced in the report. 

It also confirms that controls on modern plants are highly effective in controlling pollutants and generally very low compared with other outdoor sources of pollutants.

However, it is very disappointing that the report goes on to contradict this conclusion by making confusing claims about the health impacts of London’s energy from waste facilities.

The statistical conclusions have already been reported emotively in the media, and this has the potential to cause unnecessary concern for London’s residents. 

The information in the report about emissions from the North London Heat and Power Project is fundamentally inaccurate. It is extremely irresponsible and quite frankly alarming that such deeply flawed claims have been published. This includes the staggering error of overestimating particulate emissions by around 400%. The report even admits that this data has been overstated, so it is beyond belief that such claims would continue to be put forward. 

In reality, we are investing in world-class emissions cleaning technology to control both NOx and particulates and the actual emissions will be much lower than the already stringent limits set by the Environment Agency. Any potential health impact would be extremely small and much lower than that claimed in the report.

It is well documented that motor vehicles, aviation and domestic emissions are by far the major causes of air pollution in London, and responsible for the vast majority of the 9,400 deaths caused each year by poor air quality. That is why real action to improve air quality needs to focus on these sources, not modern energy from waste facilities which carry out a fundamental role for society by diverting non-recyclable waste from landfill, using technology that is proven to be safe and clean. 

Our facility is a vital part of London’s waste infrastructure. It is an important part of the Mayor’s Environment Strategy, which confirms that our project is necessary for London to avoid landfill and manage its own waste in the future. We are proud that our facility will protect public health, while diverting up to 700,000 tonnes of waste from landfill every year.”