Activists blockade UK waste incinerator

Greenpeace action launches new campaign against incineration, UK position on renewables directive

Over 50 Greenpeace volunteers this morning invaded the UK's largest municipal waste incinerator and forced it to shut down by chaining themselves to equipment and blockading the plant entrance. Several are now camped on top of the chimney at London's Edmonton facility and plan to stay "for as long as possible," according to the group, possibly several days.

The NGO was launching a new campaign against waste incineration following publication of a new government strategy on waste (ENDS Daily 25 May), which it has been alleged could lead to construction of up to 165 new facilities (ENDS Daily 8 February). The government has already awarded contracts for 62 new incinerators, Greenpeace says, and a further ten are at planning stage or in construction. A proposal to increase Edmonton's annual capacity from 0.5m to 0.8m tonnes of waste per year is being considered by the government.

Headlining Greenpeace's campaign is the claim that waste incinerators are "cancer factories". Despite existing and yet to be implemented EU controls on air emissions, it says, waste burning still releases thousands of extremely toxic substances, some of them carcinogenic, and for many of which there are no safe exposure levels. "The government should be shutting Edmonton and Britain's other cancer factories," but is instead promising an "incinerator epidemic," the group says.

Following the Edmonton protest, Greenpeace is planning an information campaign, including new reports detailing incineration's health impacts and the "huge subsidies" it enjoys in the UK. The group's campaign is also designed to put pressure on the UK to withdraw demands that waste incineration should be classified as a renewable energy under the draft EU directive on renewables (ENDS Daily 6 September).

This is not the first time that Greenpeace has blockaded municipal waste incinerators, to which it has long objected. This spring, its activists occupied a Swedish facility for six days (ENDS Daily 20 April). Last year a partly constructed Spanish incinerator was blockaded (ENDS Daily 13 October 1999).

Follow Up:
Greenpeace UK, tel: +44 20 78 65 82 55, press release, with links to other statements, and map of proposed new incinerators.

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