What Price Sustainable Waste Disposal?

West London Waste Authority Takes Mayor Ken Livingstone to Court

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Seats were scarce at the Royal Courts of Justice on 2nd March, where West London Waste Authority (West Waste) brought a case against Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Green Party representatives from Ealing, Hounslow and Richmond joined Greater London Authority's Jenny Jones, to hear West Waste's case against the Mayor's powers to dictate to local waste authorities whether and how they should incinerate.

Whatever the Judge decides, members of the Green Party believed that the case clearly demonstrates the folly of allowing market forces to dictate the management of waste.

James Page, Environment Spokesman for Green Party, said “We should not allow waste strategy to be determined by what facilities are most profitable for the bankers. West Waste said that business may not be willing to build pre-treatment facilities to sort waste. But if that is what is required by Londoners it can and must be made to happen.”

It was revealed in court that the government department responsible for waste strategy, the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had declined West Waste's request for support in this case.

James Page went on to say, “Incineration is wasteful and destructive and, without a reliable means to sort waste first, potentially hazardous. Many householders simply throw everything - including hazardous waste - into the bin. The Colnbrook incinerator was a speculative venture and it now threatens to write our waste strategy for us. That is no way to run a public service. We should be planning to build MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment) plants to sort our waste, not waiting for them to happen.”

Tom Beaton of Hounslow's Green Party said “We are outraged at West London Waste Authority using council taxpayers’ money to try and force through incineration. Instead of wasting our money on court cases, they should be using it to reduce the amount of waste and then dispose of the remainder by clean methods. London is at the bottom of England's league table for recycling. It is absurd that a public body should be considering signing a contract that will commit it to paying out for decades for a technology that is already past its sell by date. Shareholders in the incineration company must be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect."

The West London Waste Authority is a joint committee of the six west London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond. It handles almost a quarter of London's rubbish.

After years of warnings, the government is now forcing waste authorities to act by introducing fines for excess landfill. It is the fear of fines that has sparked WLWA into trying to place a contract to incinerate. It is understood that WLWA has set aside £100,000 to cover its legal costs in this action against the mayor.

The court's judgement will be given at a later date.


March 6, 2007