Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Greenpeace


  I am writing with regard to the Committee's inquiry into the proposal to locate a national athletics stadium at Picketts Lock in north London. Greenpeace has some concerns about this potential location which we would like to share with the Committee.

  As you may be aware, the UK's largest municipal waste incinerator is located close to the proposed site at Picketts Lock. There is currently an application with the Department of Trade and Industry to dramatically expand the burning capacity of the Edmonton incinerator to an unprecedented 830,000 tonnes per year, more than twice the size of any other incinerator in the UK.

  Mixed municipal waste of the type burnt at Edmonton contains a variety of extremely toxic materials. A few examples would include: mercury in batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and thermometers; lead in PVC plastic and batteries; brominated compounds in electrical equipment; cadmium in pigments, PVC and batteries; and chlorine in PVC and the preservatives in old timber. None of the substances listed above are destroyed by incineration. They are either vaporised (in the case of metals), or undergo chemical reactions in the intense heat to form new and very dangerous compounds such as dioxins, PCBs and chlorinated benzenes. Many hundreds of chemicals are formed in this way. Microscopic dust particles and acid gases are also created in large amounts.

  The discharges of polluting materials from the Edmonton plant are very substantial and involve literally hundreds of tonnes of noxious materials being released into the surrounding atmosphere. The whole area around Edmonton has been designated an Air Quality Management Zone due to its unacceptably high levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide. Although road traffic is the major contributor to overall atmospheric pollution in the area, the incinerator is probably the largest point source.

  The pollutants released from Edmonton incinerator have serious health implications. For example, the Department of Health has calculated that a mere five per cent reduction in particulate levels in the air nationwide would result in between 200,000 and 500,000 years of life being saved annually. In addition to concerns about particulate matter, there is also the issue of increased exposure to the dioxins which are inevitably created in the process of incinerating mixed municipal waste. The incinerator also discharges other toxic chemicals such as mercury and cadmium along with hydrogen chloride gas.

  It is clear that the current incinerator at Edmonton makes a significant negative contribution to air quality in the area and would impact on any proposed athletics facility at Picketts Lock. This is, in itself, an argument for siting the facility elsewhere or closing the incinerator. However, if plans to expand the Edmonton plant go ahead the new incinerator would then be the largest in Europe and would generate a colossal amount of aerial pollution. Any scheme to site an athletics facility so close to such a massive source of harmful pollution would make Britain a laughing stock in the sporting community and it is possible that athletes would refuse to train or compete there.

  We believe it appropriate that the Committee should consider the matter of air quality at the Picketts Lock site as part of its broader consideration of the project and look forward to hearing your views on this issue. We would also be grateful if the Committee could raise the above concerns with the Department of Trade and Industry before a final decision on the Edmonton expansion is made.

  Please find enclosed a recent scientific report by Greenpeace International on the health effects of incineration and two peer-reviewed articles which have appeared since the report was published in March this year. We hope this provides adequate scientific background to the issue but would happily provide further information if so requested.

28 August 2001

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