Thanks to Sustainable Hackney member, Rembrandt Koppelaar, for his address to Hackney council's cabinet (13-12-2021)

Deputation – 13th of December 2021

Deputation by Dr. Rembrandt Koppelaar on behalf of Sustainable Hackney

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Dear Mayor Glanville, Dear Hackney cabinet,

It is a privilege to address you today. I am a resident of Clissold Ward, and here as a representative of Sustainable Hackney. I am also active in Extinction Rebellion Zero Waste. In my paid daywork I develop digital innovations with manufacturers such as Bosch, and recyclers such as Reydesa, a company which operates the largest copper and aluminium smelters in Europe. I also work with councils in England in Essex and Kent to drive their recycling forward.

I have two key considerations for Hackney in my deputation today in the area of waste management and recycling. As you will be aware on the 16th of December the members of the North London Waste Authority, including Cllr Coban and Cllr Chapman, will vote on whether to award the procurement contract for the construction of the energy recovery facility, or the new incinerator for North London.

The reason we have arrived at this point is a result of stagnating achievements in recycling rates and waste prevention in North London. In the London plan the mayor has set a target of 65% collected recycling across all household, commercial and industrial wastes, under which a 50% recycling target for local authority managed collection services.

Today in Hackney we recycle 30% of our organic and dry household wastes. We are far from London’s target. One reason why it is so low is that there is in my view limited ambition for change. In Hackney’s Reduction and Recycling Plan from July 2021, a planning instrument developed by London’s major, Hackney’s planned ambition is to achieve by the end of 2025 a 31.5% household recycling rate. And a 27.5% recycling rate across household, commercial and industrial wastes that are collected by Hackney’s waste services.

If we compare Hackney’s ambition with the ambition elsewhere in London there is a stark contrast. The majority of London’s boroughs aim to achieve a 40% or better recycling rate by end 2025, as expressed in their Reduction and Recycling Plans. And no less than seven Boroughs in London are planning to achieve a 50% or greater recycling rate by end of 2025. Beating London’s target for local authorities by five years. Why is Hackney falling behind? Surely Hackney can do better with concerted efforts to ensure greater recycling which saves money, creates jobs and reduces the carbon footprint of our society. Sustainable Hackney asks Hackneys cabinet to increase its ambition and increase its effort to achieve London’s waste and recycling targets for 2030, in an update of Hackney’s reduction and recycling plan.

You are not alone. We can work on this together in the North London context with the other councils and environmental campaigners. Such as with Haringey, whose council leader, Cllr Peray Ahmet, recently called in a letter to the North London Waste Authority to work together to, I quote ‘produce a less waste, more circular reuse and recycling programme which aims to achieve a 65% and better recycling rate.’’

Have the councillors considered such a North London wide collaboration to produce a circular reuse and recycling programme for North London? And if so, are they willing to take steps to work together to develop this programme with the NLWA, North London’s councils and environmental campaigners?

Fortunately, Hackney can do even more than improve its waste prevention and collection recycling efforts. This brings me to the second consideration for Hackney’s cabinet. 

The current plan for the North London Heat and Power Plant or EcoPark in Enfield has a key deficit. It is designed to burn the plastics that we in North London throw away in our black bags. Instead of burning and releasing CO2 these plastics can be recovered, recycled and sold for a substantial profit.

Plastics are primarily made out of fossil fuels. As a result of their production and incineration plastics cause an estimated 4.5% of global emissions based on the latest research.[i]  For every tonne of plastic we recycle instead of burn, we can save close to 2 tonnes of carbon emissions if made from petroleum which is the common route in Europe[ii], and 4 tonnes if made from coal which is the common route in China.[iii]

Instead of incinerating the plastics we should in North London develop the UK’s most advanced sorting and recycling facility as part of the NLHPP EcoPark. To recover the plastics from our black bags and recycle them and turn waste into a profit. The technology has advanced enough in the last five years to make this possible. It is done via optical sorting to create material streams with different kind of plastics. The plastics are then shredded to create plastic flakes, cold and hot washed to improve purity, and further optical sorting to receive 98% purity plastics. This is how it is done – today – in Norway, at the IVAR LKS facility, where 82% of the plastics from black bags since 2019 are recovered and turned into plastics.[iv] And how it is also implemented in the Netherlands in many facilities. And how it is done in the UK in Northwich, England, in a facility operated by Orsted since December 2020.[v] There are other facilities in the UK that try to do pre-sorting, such as in Leeds, but these have limited or no optical sorting capability, and can thus not create sufficient quality output for recycling markets.

The reasons are compelling to build the UK’s most advanced facility for the sorting and recycling facility for plastics from black bag waste.

  • As of April 2022, there will be a tax in place on any producer or importer of unrecycled plastics packaging of 200 pounds per tonne, with less than 30% recycled plastics content. A similar tax is already in place in the European Union at a level of 800 euro per tonne. Providing guaranteed market stability.

 

  • There is a large economic value in high purity colour sorted plastic flakes. On an annual basis North London’s plastic from black bag waste, when sorted and recycled, has based on current market prices of 430 pounds per tonne for plastic flakes, a value of 35 million pounds in flake form, and on prices around 870 pound per tonne in pellet form, a 70 million pounds value as plastics pellets.[vi] The higher economic potential is equivalent to what all North London boroughs - combined - will pay for the incineration of wastes.

 

Have the Councillors considered the economic benefits from an integrated mixed residual waste sorting and plastics recycling facility? And if so, what were the reasons to ignore the economic value generated since the Authority is publicly owned?

 

  • Such a facility would drive down the costs of our waste collection and treatment, instead of up as per the current NLHPP Energy from Waste incinerator plan. Hackney is expected to pay 5 million pounds per year more for its waste disposal by the end of this decade as a consequence of the new Energy from Waste incinerator.[vii]

 

  • It is the fastest way to reduce the carbon footprint from the incineration facility. Plastics cause around 70% of the fossil carbon emissions from waste incineration.[viii] By removing as much plastics as possible prior to incineration, the carbon footprint of and energy from waste facility can be reduced to close to zero on a net emissions accounting basis, even without the costly and unproven addition at large scale of carbon capture and storage.[ix]

 

  • It will improve the overall air quality from the Energy from Waste incinerator as the incineration of plastics is one of the main causes of pollutants in incinerators. Next to textiles and furniture that contain substantial volatile organic compounds. The recovery and recycling of plastics is a source solution instead of an end-of-pipe air pollution solution.

 

  • Creating a local North London facility would ensure that no plastics are exported and we work on self-sufficiency for recycling in North London.

Since the current plan will burn instead of recover 35 to 70 million pounds of value per year, in my expert opinion, I do not believe the energy recovery facility offers value for money and has an optimised return on investment. I strongly recommend the addition of an integrated sorting and plastics recycling to the EcoPark before advising any NLWA board member to consider moving forward. There is also a missing opportunity to create value from food and organic wastes and turn this into biogas and high quality digestate for compost, as carried out in the operation at Northwich, but we don’t have time for this today. 

For these reasons, Sustainable Hackney asks from Cllr Coban and Cllr Chapman to ensure that the North London Waste Authority seriously looks at redesigning the NLHPP EcoPark to include the pre-sorting and recycling of plastics prior to incineration, as part of a pause and review of the NLHPP project. Cllr Coban and Cllr Chapman have the power today to ensure that there is a plan to move forward in a far more economic and environmentally friendly manner than the current plan. To add their voices to that of our MP Diane Abbott, who stated on the 2nd of December that: ‘There should be a pause and review of the plans for the Edmonton incinerator, on grounds of pollution, public health and the urgent necessity to cut CO2 and noxious emissions. ‘[x]

Thank you for reading and listening.

[i] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-021-00807-2

[ii] https://solutions.tomra.com/hrs-rrp-landing-page ; https://www.viridor.co.uk/who-we-are/latest-news/2021-news/viridor-...

[iii] https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2020/07...

[iv] https://recycling.tomra.com/blog/mixed-waste-sorting-ivar-iks-norway

[v] https://orsted.co.uk/energy-solutions/renescience

[vi] Based on 80,000 tonne of plastics and market prices from plasticker for the international recycled plastics market - https://plasticker.de/preise/preise_monat_en.php?group=gran

[vii] https://www.nlwa.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2021-02/02%20Budget%20a...

[viii] https://www.viridor.co.uk/who-we-are/latest-news/2021-news/viridor-...

[ix] https://www.eunomia.co.uk/reports-tools/waste-in-the-net-zero-centu...

[x] https://twitter.com/HackneyAbbott/status/1466002865374306304

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