Environment Agency makes incinerator ‘site of high interest’

Poisoned air: the incinerator at Beddington has broken the terms of its permit 40 times in 42 months

The Environment Agency has agreed to a request from UKWIN – United Kingdom Without Incineration Network – to declare the Beddington incinerator as a “Site of High Public Interest”.

As a result, the EA has agreed to run a second six-week round of consultation if they plan to agree to the increase in waste to be burnt at the plant.

Viridor, who operate the incinerator, has applied for a permit variation to allow them to burn even more rubbish at the plant – as much as 382,286 tonnes per year.

The Environment Agency says, “If, following the first consultation process, we reach the decision to issue the permit variation, we will then enter into a second phase of consultation called ‘Minded to issue’ consultation.

“Should this be required, the consultation process will follow the same pattern and timescale as the initial consultation.”

That initial consultation is open now and runs until December 23, and environment campaigners are urging as many people as possible to complete the Environment Agency consultation.

The latest permit variation would mean another 10per cent increase in burning at the incinerator, which also means 10per cent more emissions, 10per cent more HGV traffic along the Purley Way to and from the plant, and probably 10per cent more breaches of the permit.

By September this year, Viridor’s Beddington incinerator had broken the terms of its existing permit 40 times in 42 months.

Many of those permit breaches have been for volatile organic compounds, or “VOCs”. The high VOC releases are usually associated with the smell that is released by the incinerator. By definition, the gasses are unstable and when released in large amounts they can induce undesirable effects to those who have asthma or other chronic health problems. Health effects range from the relatively minor, such as itchy eyes, to headaches, fatigue, coughing, nausea through to serious conditions, like cancer.

When Viridor originally turned up in south London selling the idea of their wonderful incinerator to the local councils, including Croydon and Sutton, they were talking about burning 275,000 tonnes of waste. For that, they gave the Sutton’s LibDems’ chosen charity, Holy Trinity in Wallington, a pound for every tonne to be burnt: £275,000 was donated.

Turns out, Viridor short-changed the gullible local politicians.

During the planning process, Viridor brazenly upped the amount they were going to burn, to 302,500 tonnes.

A couple of years ago, the permit was increased to 347,422 and now the permit-breaching, environment-damaging, profit-hungry multi-national wants to increase it yet again to 382,286 tonnes. That’s a 39per cent increase from the initial proposal. And there’s nothing to stop them coming back for more in the future, either.

The consultation is quick and easy to complete.

The three main points to mention are:

  • Viridor’s record of 40 emission breaches over 42 months of published figures.
  • Viridor’s admission that the additional waste incinerated will be from outside the local area, well beyond the Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton. They suggest the waste will be coming from all over London and the south-east, by the lorry-load.
  • Viridor struggles to cope with the current volumes of waste and recycling. Croydon and Sutton are actually sending recyclable waste to the incinerator, rather than processing it correctly, simply because it is cheaper. The incinerator’s bunker is frequently overloaded with waste, and additional storage area has been provided to cope when large volumes arrive.

Read more: Viridor incinerator fined for multiple pollution permit breaches
Read more: ‘People will die’: Dombey accused of Viridor ‘Faustian pact’
Read more: Viridor incinerator given 20 warnings in just 15 months
Read more: Viridor breaking rules over incinerator’s pollution reports


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to Environment Agency makes incinerator ‘site of high interest’

  1. Jim Duffy says:

    Thanks Inside Croydon, well summarised. Greedy Viridor, now under the control of US hedge fund KKR have been upping the limit on what they can burn and spray into our lungs since the outset. Rather than allow this increase there should be a plan to shut down the incinerator and replace it with Zero Waste Europe’s recommended MBRT waste system which extracts as much recyclables as possible, then cleans the remainder so it can go to landfill without producing harmful greenhouse gases.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Thank you Inside Croydon for the article, and for the link to the consultation questionnaire, which I filled in on line and submitted .

    I would urge all Inside Croydon readers who care about the ar we all breathe–and particularly, the qulaity of the air breathed by the people who live within the area affected the most, by the waste gases and particulates, and other chemicals spewed out by the Beddington Incinerator, and its dirty “plume” of pollutred air, to open up tghe link and submit their response too.

    Thanks also to Jim Duffy for his comment above. I was not aware of Zero Waste Europe nor the MBRT system.

    It seems so wrong that the UK exports its waste-under guise of “recycling” to places in Africa and India where it gets burnt or dumped, contaminating the land, rivers and the sea.

    Exporting waste should be made illegal.

    It also seems so wrong that spineless UK governments over the last 25 years have not introduced deposit schemes for bottles and cans.

    Nor have they banned the manufacture and selling of unrecycleable containers, nor have they insisted that every supermarket has a recycling bin for all wrappers and bags. Only the big ones do.

    Ironically, it seems to be the private sector who are taking the initiative in reducing packaging and encouraging use of recycleable and biodegradeable bags.

    Would our lives be badly affected if we were not able to buy the products that are unrecycleable or–those weasel words –“Not widely recycled” or “Not currently recycled”?

    The waste mountain of the past is contaminating our groundwater from old local rubbish dumps, and –where landfill in Essex is being eroded by the River Thames– the river and North Sea, and ultimately, the Atlantic– are being polluted by the nasties like old batteries that we dumped back in the 1950’s to 2000’s in landfill on the former Essex marshes at Pitsea and Mucking. Now mountains of rubbish.

    Incineration ? A mountain of health issues for many of those who live within the area affected areas.

    It also happens that in Beddington, the location is in and upwind of residential areas in Central and North Croydon which are badly affected by road traffic and articulate emissions from the A23 and other main roads, and which are few in trees .

    The sooner we have all-singing, all-dancing recycling centres–and year-on-year waste reduction– the better.

  3. Jim Duffy says:

    Hi Lewis. Well said, I agree with every word! Here’s an article on MRBT recycling by Zero Waste Europe:
    https://zerowasteeurope.eu/2013/05/what-to-do-with-the-leftovers-of-zero-waste/

  4. Jim Duffy says:

    Here’s an article on how a community of half a million residents in Italy have avoided incineration using the MRBT system:
    https://zerowastecities.eu/bestpractice/best-practice-the-story-of-contarina/

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