Why a new incinerator will worsen race inequality

Delia Mattis from Black Lives Matter Enfield on her concerns over the new incinerator being built in Edmonton


Black Lives Matter Enfield is calling to pause the plans to build a new, larger Edmonton incinerator, and for North London Waste Authority to properly consult the people of Enfield borough about it.

We believe the planning policies that determine where these incinerators are allowed to exist are racist. Incinerators are three times more likely to be built in deprived areas, which themselves are more likely to have a racially diverse population. Edmonton’s ethnic make-up is around 60% black, brown, or other racial or ethnic group.

The worst thing about the current plans is that most people in Edmonton seem to have no idea what is going on. This is no surprise since the public ‘consultation’ on the incinerator ended in 2015, nearly six years ago.

Evidence shows that small particulate matter – air pollution – can travel many miles. A recent study by air quality consultants for the Greater London Authority calculated that 15 deaths a year in London were at least partly caused by emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from five London incinerators (or “energy from waste plants” as they are dubbed by their proponents).

Although such crucial information can be found on the Mayor of London’s website, go to Edmonton Green and ask people if they know about the incinerator plans and try to find someone who knows about it; you will struggle to find anyone.

The worst thing about the current plans is that the vast majority of people in Edmonton have no idea what is going on. The so-called consultation was a sham, the newsletter was only delivered to those living within a one-mile radius of the incinerator. Only 72 residents responded to phase one and 123 people to phase two – out of two million residents in North London.

In recent years people have become more informed about the issues caused by air pollution and climate change. Look at what happened last year in Jamaica, for example. We saw footage of whole buildings being swept away by rivers of flood water that left behind complete devastation in a country already suffering from the economic devastation from the pandemic.

Black communities are certainly becoming more aware and are starting to campaign around this issue. A nine-year-old girl called Ella Kissi Debrah died in 2013. She lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham, South London, and a coroner ruled last year that air pollution “made a material contribution to her death”.

This ruling sent shockwaves through the black community, including those in Enfield. Edmonton is already polluted from the North Circular Road, so a larger incinerator on top of this screams that black lives don’t matter to the politicians who endorse this toxic, air-polluting choker.

Covid-19 has disproportionately affected black and brown communities and experts are now linking air pollution to Covid-19 deaths. The Office for National Statistics has published a report on the link between long-term exposure to dirty air, severe symptoms of Covid-19, and a greater risk of death. This gives even more reason for black communities to oppose the plans.

Edmonton Labour Party has now passed a motion against this incinerator, which shows that the Enfield Council executive is out of touch with Edmonton residents. We hope that more local people will join BLM Enfield, as well as the local branch of Extinction Rebellion, in our new doorstep leafleting campaign to raise awareness.

Delia Mattis, Black Lives Matter, Enfield


This comment was originally published in the Enfield Dispatch, March 2021

Enfield BLM is fundraising for its campaign against the incinerator and has also launched a new petition: Click here to visit our gofundme page