The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has embarked on its journey to manage waste that north Londoners cannot recycle.
We also have a plan to maximise the value of this resource and deliver as many benefits as possible for the communities we represent.
We have an opportunity to set new standards in how we manage the waste, the technology we use, the way we will consult the public and in terms of the heat and power we can generate. Energy security is a challenge everyone will need to play a role in addressing, and the resource industry has to step up to the challenge.
The North London Heat and Power Project is one part of the solution. Actually, it is the last part of the solution.
In an ideal world, all of us would use only materials we need and reuse more. Anything we cannot use should be recyclable. But this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.
It is important to prevent waste, encourage more reuse and then recycle what is left. North London’s target is to achieve a recycling rate of 50% by 2020. We have a great campaign, ‘Wise Up To Waste’, to help north Londoners recycle, but let’s not pretend it is a simple challenge.
It is everyone’s responsibility. It is no good if I just point the finger at someone and say ‘you must recycle half your waste’. We need to face up to the challenge together.
The waste produced in north London is expected to increase to more than a million tonnes by 2050 – why is that? Partly, it is because London is a global city and its population is due to exceed 10 million by 2031, according to the Office of National Statistics. This is the same reason we need Crossrail, Crossrail II, thousands of new homes, more airport capacity, new sewage systems.
Our waste model considers the impact on waste arisings as the economy strengthens, and the impact of future waste prevention policies which are likely to have a downward pull on tonnages. These practical considerations have produced a relatively low growth rate for waste during the modelled period.
Our figures are also based on achieving a 50% recycling target for household waste and allows for a substantial improvement in business waste recycling. This allows for high levels of achievement balanced with the practical challenge of driving up recycling rates from current levels.
North London is expected to produce well over 600,000 tonnes of residual waste by 2050. But what if we do not recycle half of it? If this happens, residual waste will exceed 700,000 tonnes. And remember that seasonal waste and peak periods can drive up waste by around 20% above average arisings. We need to plan for the future.
Leaving household waste unmanaged is irresponsible and sending it to landfill is damaging to the environment, and we will not do this any more.
NLWA members have demonstrated leadership and vision in regards to the Heat and Power Project. We want the best technology available when it comes to air quality. The current plant that has served north London for 45 years operates at almost 20% below permitted levels of nitrogen oxides. The replacement facility will operate at more than 60% below.
We will also specify the best design available in terms of how it looks and, best of all in my opinion, we are going to be able to heat homes for many years to come. We will provide heat which can be used by Enfield Council’s exciting Lee Valley Heat Network. In fact, we are planning to do this soon with the existing energy-from-waste plant. We will also provide power for 127,000 homes.
The benefits of the replacement facility extend beyond the EcoPark perimeter fence. It will provide security of jobs for another 40 years, and supply chain opportunities for local businesses such as printers, plumbers, painters and publicans.
Councillor Clyde Loakes, chair of the NLWA, summed up the project in a sentence: “We want to prevent waste, we want you to recycle it and anything you can’t, we’re going to turn into fuel and use it to heat and power homes.”
So what now? The consent process has been launched and we are seeking initial opinions on our proposal. We want everyone to help us shape this project to ensure it is the best it can be. We aim to apply for consent in Q3 2015 and hope to start work on-site in around 2022.
David Beadle is North London Waste Authority’s managing director.