Calls for Beddington incinerator to be shut down over CO2

Viridor’s figures show that their south London plant is pumping out three times as much CO2 as other, similar facilities. By PAUL LUSHION, environment correspondent

Beddington incinerator: Viridor’s own figures are ‘outrageous’

The Viridor incinerator at Beddington Lane, operated on behalf of Croydon and three other south London boroughs, is releasing as much CO2 into the atmosphere as the emissions from 200,000 family cars in a year.

That’s the shock finding from a report from the Environment Agency – who have nonetheless just given operators Viridor permission to burn even more polluting rubbish every year.

The figures suggest that the Beddington incinerator is three times more polluting than similar plants operated by Viridor.

Such high levels of emissions could wreck the “good intentions” of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston – the four boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership, the commissioners of the Beddington incinerator – who have all declared a climate emergency and set targets to be carbon neutral, in some cases within 10 years.

The Environment Agency says that the Viridor plant produced 236,396 tonnes of CO2 in 2019, the year it was first fully operational. The figures are based on Viridor’s own monitoring.

The Beddington incinerator compares badly against a similar-sized plant in Runcorn, Cheshire, which produced two-thirds less CO2 despite burning several times more waste. That’s about the average for what Viridor shamelessly describe as “Energy from Waste plants”.

The Beddington incinerator produces some electricity, but if its carbon emissions are compared to an old-fashioned coal-fired power station, it fares badly again.

Coal produces 870 grams of CO2 per unit of electricity produced (the fossil carbon intensity). Beddington produces 1,302 grams per unit, 67 per cent more pollution than an already outdated method (gas-fuelled electricity is 350 gCO2/kWh, or about four times less than Beddington).

During the planning process for the Beddington incinerator, the public was assured that it was the best environmental solution for dealing with waste. Jim Duffy, one of the campaigners who has opposed the development, said, “The incinerator is pumping out way too much greenhouse gas.

“Across Europe there are recycycling alternatives which are achieving great rates of 85 per cent. Here, south London boroughs such as Sutton and Croydon are managing to recycle only around half of their waste.

“Recycling produces very little CO2 and materials are kept within the Circular Economy. We don’t need this polluting incinerator and we should take plastic out of its feedstock now to get these figures down straight away, and aim to close it in due course.”

The Environment Agency provided Viridor’s CO2 figures to Shlomo Dowen, the coordinator of UK Without Incineration. Dowen said, “Viridor should be required to offer a clear and verifiable explanation for the disturbingly high CO2 figures that they supplied to the regulator.”

Given Viridor’s figures, it makes the decision of the Environment Agency in December to increase the amount it burns each year all the more unjustifiable.

The EA granted Viridor’s request for a 50,000-tonne increase the incinerator could burn in a year, up to 347,000 tonnes per year. The agency did not consult on the increase with local councils or residents.

At the SLWP meeting last month, the councillors representing the four boroughs were not even aware the decision had already been made. Every councillor who spoke was against the increase and the committee pledged to meet the Environment Agency to discuss the increase.

Peter Underwood: incinerator must close by 2030

Duffy called the manoeuvre by Viridor “outrageous”. He said, “Viridor must have known about its high carbon emissions but had the gall to ask to burn even more waste.”

Peter Underwood, the Green Party candidate in Croydon and Sutton in May’s London Assembly elections, said, “If the councils are serious about meeting their Climate Emergency declarations, then they have to plan to close the incinerator by 2030.

“That means they need to start introducing changes now to reduce the amount of waste we produce and increase the amount we re-use and recycle.

“Carrying on as before is not an option.”

Read more: London’s toxic air is ‘a public health emergency’ says charity
Read more: Incinerator is ‘as polluting as coal-fired power stations’
Read more: Senior LibDem dined with Viridor days before incinerator vote


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7 Responses to Calls for Beddington incinerator to be shut down over CO2

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    Fundamentally Viridor are a profit-making company burning trash. They are making brass from muck.

    In no different a way to developers and other businesses, they are catering to a need and making profits from this. As long as they make this money reasonable and abide by the rules, regulations and laws, then there should be no issues here.

    But hang on this is a plant that is polluting the atmosphere and the locality to high levels so why has the Environment Agency allowed this to happen and continue happening? Why are our Councillors not up in the Councils damning this plant and looking after our interests? Why is there a stunning silence from George Eustice MP minister for the Environment? Where are the MPs from both parties and the lobbies to Parliament.

    To paraphrase Edmund Burke, The only thing necessary for the triumph of avarice and wrongdoing is for elected people to do nothing and those that elect them to remain silent.
    Welcome to the 21st Century.

  2. Paul says:

    Part of the problem is even if you segregate your recycling like clothes the bin men just put the in with your waste. Have raised with the council but it’s still happening.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Sadly for years every Veolia person has ignored clothes we have left out. All without fail have said they do not collect them. This is despite the Council website. This was also told to our neighbors my daughter and reported to the Council nothing ever was done. Perhaps that is why they just put it in the main landfill

  3. Colin Cooper says:

    This simply shows that all the declarations of ‘climate emergency’ and proclamations of a similar nature are simply playing to the gallery and flapping their collective lips, as per normal.
    Until major CO2 producing countries such as China (28%), USA (15%) and the rest of the world (ex Europe and Russia) @ 21% cease burning fossil fuels etc, whatever we try and do, bearing in mind that the UK is producing less than 2%, we are wasting our time, effort and money!

  4. Lewis White says:

    Further to Ian’s response, it seems to me that from a position of total denial about the grossly-polluting nature of incineration, local and National Government is – at very long last — just about starting to acknowledge that incineration is bad for health.

    Which is better than continuing denial. Whether we will see existing incinerators go, not to be replaced, in London in the next 5 years is another matter.

    Notice–even now– how politicians mention vehcile pollution as the enemy– conveniently reaining silent on the burning of waste.

    There has been a no-doubt well-intentioned, but deeply questionable take on self-sufficiency– that London should deal with its own rubbish within its borders. Sounds so nice–not spreading London’s rubbish footprint over the lovely countryside, or export it to affect other cities and towns. Who could really object to that? But it did mean that incinerators were built in London. In the already spoiled bits, like Edmonton and Deptford, and later–Beddington. Places which were already suffering more than their fair share of bad air quality.

    The potential for producing electricity for the National Grid, and Heat for piping to local homes and factories has been “bigged up” to try to present incineration as a desirable eco-friendly thng to do, casting a blind eye over the pollution aspects.

    This is just as misplaced as the bizarre official encouragement to buy a diesel car some 10 years ago, when we all knew that diesels are smelly and highly polluting.

    “Where there’s muck, there’s brass”. Always has been.

    I don’t begrudge the profits made by the firms who take away our rubbish, and recycle some of it, burn the rest, as long as they do it within the Law.

    What does get to me is the lack of UK government action to tighten up the Laws, and to fund the Envirionment Agency properly, and give them teeth in their policing task. Their budget has ben cut and cut and cut. Not sure by how much, but it is substantial.

    Plus, the failure of the EU and UK to minimise waste.

    I look forward in the next 10 years to reduction in packaging, reduction in plastic waste etc— but Government needs to act to achieve this. Research about how to deal with waste plastic.
    It’s not just a war on waste, but a war for air quality, and longer heathier lives for the people who live in the areas currently with poor air.

    I have to say that I can’t see incineration disappearing, as there is always a nasty residue of stuff (such as miscellaneous building waste, such as lead-painted and treated timber and oily rags) plus the contents of our household non-recyclables dustbins, that we all generate.

    But these incinerators should be located away from major settlements, and down wind of as many villages as possible.

  5. Lewis White says:

    Just remembered a thought about air quality.

    I first got this thought when I got off the bus in central Croydon a few years ago, and started wheezing when I breathed in a lungfull of contaminated air, stinking of burning plastic– which smell I realised was blowing direct fom the Beddingon incinerator.

    I also got it again, the other night, on my local suburban lockdown walk at 11pm., when I also started wheezing when I breathed in the invisible smoke from a local wood burning stove.

    The thought ?

    Fresh air should be a Human Right.

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