A senior official from Viridor, the operators of the Beddington Lane incinerator which is about to start spewing goodness knows what into the atmosphere above Croydon, will be facing questions from London Assembly Members this afternoon.
And while senior Croydon councillors have promised this week to get tough on checking the particulates in the air when the Viridor incinerator is fired up, none of Croydon’s MPs have yet signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for a moratorium on all use of incinerators.
The Beddington Lane incinerator, built at a cost of more than £200million, is expected to start “hot commissioning” tests this month, before firing up properly next summer to burn hundreds of tons of rubbish every year for the next quarter of a century. The incinerator was commissioned by the South London Waste Partnership – Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon – in a £1billion deal which includes facilities to handle radioactive waste.
Today, the Assembly’s environment committee will be discussing issues relating to what the operators and their supporters – such as Croydon’s Tories and planning authority Sutton’s LibDems – like to euphemistically call “energy from waste”, or EFW, as part of the committee’s investigation into waste management in London.
One of those giving evidence will be Dan Cooke, a Viridor director who has led the charm offensive in south London by taking local councillors on guided tours of his company’s facility at Heathrow.
As well as the suits from Viridor, also appearing before the committee will be Shlomo Dowen, the national coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN).
UKWIN – which comproses more than 100 member groups from around the country – has provided written evidence to the London Assembly showing how waste incineration actively discourages and reduces recycling and why it is important that London adopts a moratorium on new waste incineration capacity.
“Incineration has no place in the zero-waste closed-loop circular economy towards which we should be working,” said Dowen.
“London has a great opportunity to be a global leader in sustainable waste management, but at the moment London’s recycling rates are suffering from the effects of incineration over-capacity.”
At the House of Commons, John Grogan, the Labour MP for Keighley, has tabled this Early Day Motion:
“That this House notes in the UK there is now more waste incineration capacity built and under construction than it is forecast there will be genuinely residual combustible waste to burn; further notes that incineration overcapacity can be a barrier to achieving the recycling society; believes that realising such a recycling society would result in significant economic, social and environmental benefits; acknowledges the need to send a clear message that the waste hierarchy should shift focus away from incineration and towards waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting; and calls on the Government and the devolved governments to introduce a complete moratorium on new waste incineration capacity, covering both conventional waste incineration and other forms such as gasification and pyrolysis, as a matter of urgency.“
The EDM has so far garnered modest but cross-party support, from Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s lone MP, other senior Labour figures, such as the widely respected Frank Field, a couple of Conservatives, the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales, LibDem Norman Lamb, and even members of the DUP have supported it.
But Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North – an area which is at high risk of having its air quality affected by the incinerator – Sarah Jones, Labour’s new MP for Croydon Central, nor Tory MP Chris Philp (Croydon South) have signed it.
Tom Brake, the LibDem MP for Carshalton and Wallington, the constituency where the Beddington incinerator is sited, is a relatively recent convert to the noxious notion of burning rubbish; it was a church hall that Brake’s supporters use for party meetings which was handed a £275,000 “gift” by a charity administered by Viridor. Brake has stated that he will not sign the EDM.
On Monday, Stuart Collins, a long-term opponent of the Viridor incinerator and the Labour council cabinet member responsible for the borough’s waste policies and environment issues, told a full council meeting that he intended to ensure that Croydon would keep a close check on the Beddington Lane incinerator’s emissions and make sure Viridor and the Environment Agency – the government body responsible for overseeing safety standards are met – are held to account.
“It’s vitally important that they use the strongest possible filters,” Collins said, speaking in the Town Hall chamber. Collins failed to say how he intended to get Croydon’s council staff to keep checks on the Environment Agency’s full-time experts and also check what’s coming out of the top of Viridor’s 100-metre-tall chimneys.
This afternoon’s City Hall grilling of the incinerator lobby begins at 2.30pm and will be webcast here.
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It is interesting that LibDem MP Norman Lamb has put his name to the Early Day Motion calling for a halt to any more toxic incinerators. In East Anglia, the LibDems fight against incinerators.
Here in the south of London where the LibDem constituencies of Twickenham, Kingston and Carshalton and Wallington received £2million of handouts of what is really tax-payers’ money via Viridor’s charity, they take a much kinder view of Viridor’s incinerators.