North London Boroughs confirm backing for vital North London Heat and Power Project ahead of Earth Day 2020

22 Apr 2020

The seven north London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey and Islington and Waltham Forest have yesterday (21 April) reaffirmed their ongoing and complete support for the North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP).

A letter signed by each borough has been published in response to a request from Extinction Rebellion that the project be paused. The boroughs are emphatically clear that pausing the project would undermine major efforts to tackle the Climate Emergency. The project is a major asset for north London’s communities, delivering vital public investment in recycling infrastructure and preventing hugely environmentally damaging increases in landfill use in the future.

The prime responsibility for councillors serving the public is to provide responsible, effective solutions which protect communities from social, health and environmental risks. North London’s boroughs are clear that the NLHPP meets exactly these requirements.

The project is a major investment in sustainable waste infrastructure for the future. It was approved by the Government in 2017 after extensive consultation with local communities. The project will deliver a state-of-the-art resource recovery facility – the most modern in the UK – as well as a brand-new public reuse and recycling centre, together with safe and reliable technology for treating non-recyclable waste. The new Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) will safeguard against landfill use in the future. It will treat non-recyclable waste as a resource for society – generating low-carbon heat and power for up to 127,000 homes.

Extinction Rebellion have proposed alternative ways for treating the non-recyclable waste produced by north London’s 2 million residents. The main suggestion is Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT). This was considered and rejected because MBT is unproven, unreliable, and beset with high-profile and costly failures across the UK and ultimately still creates a fuel that is burnt in an ERF facility. It would simply be irresponsible to take such a reckless gamble with the delivery of essential services for north Londoners.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the fundamental importance to society of safe and reliable waste services. The existing plant at Edmonton EcoPark is now working around the clock for north London’s residents to safely dispose of their waste. Pausing the NLHPP, which will replace the existing plant by 2025, would pose unacceptable risks to the public. The Covid-19 crisis has also clearly demonstrated just how much our residents are still failing to recycle and reuse on their doorstep, but instead continue to overuse and rely on the residual waste bins, infrastructure capacity and services that they can readily access.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Chair of NLWA says, “We call on Extinction Rebellion to work with the NLWA and the boroughs in areas of common interest, such as the vital practical and campaigning work to reduce waste and increase recycling for the benefit of the planet and future generations. Supporting and encouraging our residents is an area where we could be working together to focus minds and secure much needed behaviour change”.

North London’s boroughs have hugely ambitious plans to reduce waste and increase recycling in response to the Climate Emergency. The NLHPP aligns completely with this coordinated action. As well as delivering new infrastructure for recycling, it will save the equivalent of 215,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year compared to landfill. That is the same impact as taking 110,000 cars off the road.

Cllr Jon Burke, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm: "While Hackney Council is taking significant action to reduce the amount of black bag waste we send to incineration, we also recognise the important role that the new energy from waste plant will play in generating the equivalent annual electricity of more than 120,000 homes and eliminating the uncontrolled cocktail of powerful greenhouse gases associated with landfill. By undertaking coordinated efforts to increase recycling and reduce waste; extracting valuable energy from non-recyclable material; and continuing to explore offsetting and capturing the carbon dioxide emissions generated by the plant, the North London Waste Authority is creating a model for the progressively decarbonised waste system we desperately require."

Despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the NLWA is making significant achievements in continuing to deliver the NLHPP. While early pre-construction works have been temporarily paused to uphold the safety of the workforce, digital solutions are being harnessed to ensure major procurement activities continue unaffected. This includes the upcoming appointment of a main contractor to deliver the new recycling facilities, as well as the launch of the procurement for the world-class ERF.

The boroughs’ full and comprehensive response to Extinction Rebellion can be found online here.