By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
A ‘climate crime scene’ was cordoned off at locations across South London as Extinction Rebellion protesters called for an end to the Beddington incinerator.
Activists from Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston dressed as “plume wardens” and endangered urban lapwings and walked through the boroughs warning of high pollution levels before ending up in Beddington Park on Saturday.
They claim that the release of carbon emissions from burning waste from the incinerator until 2042 contradicts the councils’ pledge to go carbon neutral.
Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston councils all called climate emergencies last year.
All fall under the South London Waste Partnership, which has a contract with Viridor, which runs the £205 million Energy Recovery Facility in Beddington Lane.
It incinerates the ‘residual waste’ – things that can’t be recycled, reused or composted – of one million residents, and generates energy from this, which is set to generate energy to heat the New Mill Quarter in Hackbridge.
The SLWP says it chose the ‘best option’ to deal with non-recyclable waste – the other two would be to send it to landfill or export it for disposal elsewhere in the UK or further afield.
A spokesman said: “The four SLWP boroughs are absolutely clear that they have by far the best of those options: treating our non-recyclable waste locally to produce electricity and hot water.
Daniela Tilbrook, who has been a member of XR Merton for the past year and joined protestors on Saturday, said: “It was all a bit shocking once I started reading into it, so much of our rubbish is burnt.
“The stuff in high street bins where recycling is separated gets contaminated so it just gets burnt.
“All the councils have called a climate emergency but they are not actually doing that at all, I think they are just giving lip service.”
But a spokeswoman for Viridor said the facility was “extremely efficient and safe” and regulated by the Environment Agency.
She said: “ERFs represent the fourth step of the Waste Hierarchy – reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. There are no plans to close Beddington ERF as the UK must ensure it has appropriately licensed and regulated facilities capable of managing all waste streams.
“Residents are urged to play their part in supporting the UK circular economy by separating their recyclable and non-recyclable waste at home and ensuring that recycling does not come to energy recovery facilities.”
The call for residents to separate their waste at home to avoid it being burnt was echoed by a SLWP spokeswoman.
She added: “The four boroughs collect around 330,000 tonnes of waste from households each year – 154,000 tonnes is sorted by residents and is recycled.
“But that still leaves the boroughs with an enormous challenge: what to do with the 177,000 tonnes collected from residents at the kerbside which has not been sorted and separated for recycling.
“But a significant proportion of that residual waste is currently not recyclable. Until that changes, local authorities across the country must ensure they have access to reliable, safe, environmentally-sustainable and affordable ways of dealing with it.”
Pictured top: Extinction Rebellion protesters at the weekend
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