We shut down Britain's 'flagship' waste incinerator in South London...

Last edited 25 February 2002 at 9:00am
SELCH incinerator: climber arrested...for nearly four days, to protect our children from cancer.

The latest
A crack squad of specialist bailiffs forced their way through our barricades and up the chimney, cutting their way through the chimney hatch with a circular saw at 9.45 am yesterday.

One campaigner and one independent camerawoman were taken into custody on the chimney roof. Two volunteers escaped the swarm of bailiffs and hung down the side of the stack, on climbing ropes, attempting to unfurl a 'POISON' banner.

Now we are all under arrest.

Whilst sad that our occupation has come to an end, we are immensely proud of the many volunteers who helped to shut the SELCHP incinerator (owned by the French multinational company Onyx) for three and a half days. Every hour that we kept the incinerator shut was an hour less pollution - by dioxins, acid gases, toxic metals and particulates - for the residents of London.

Our campaign against waste incineration continues!

The action
At 7.30 on Monday morning, one team of volunteers entered the SELCHP plant in Lewisham. They chained themselves to the huge rubbish grabbing claws in the main tipping hall, shutting off the fuel supply to the furnace, and closing down the incinerator. They spent three days in the stinking pit of decomposing waste, before being forcibly removed by bailiffs.

Meanwhile our climbers began scaling the 100-metre chimney - to stop the plant releasing poisonous gases into the air. They barricaded themselves inside the chimney for three nights.

A second team of climbers spent Monday scaling the main building, trying to unfurl our banner in the screaming gale - to tell London that 'Burning Rubbish Makes Us Sick'. Eventually the strength of the wind tore the banner, and the team came down. They were all arrested, and have been released on bail.

On Wednesday morning the crack team of specialist climbing bailiffs arrived, forcing their way inside the main incinerator hall. It took them several hours to remove our team, who were suspended over the pit on climbing ropes.

We also succeeded in sealing off one of the chimney flues on Wednesday, so that the incinerator could not be restarted.

Members of the public, Peter Ainsworth the Shadow Environment Secretary, the London Assembly Green group and Liberal Democrats on Lewisham Council have all given their encouragement and support.

Carcinogenic emissions
This incinerator releases chemicals called dioxins - classified as causing cancer by the World Health Organisation - in significant quantities.

The government has already warned us that one in three people consume more dioxins than is safe - and that half of all babies and toddlers exceed that limit. The Environment Minister has already admitted that emissions from incinerators are extremely toxic.

But the SELCHP plant continues to spew them out - burning rubbish from the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street, as well as several London boroughs - and the Environment Agency do nothing about it.

Take our Incinerator Tour - and you'll see exactly how this SELCHP plant works. It's a lot less pleasant than the operators tell you.

More incinerators are on the way
The Government is actually encouraging councils to build more incinerators. Fifteen working incinerators in Britain could become well over a hundred, within the next ten years.

Such a building programme would increase overall dioxin pollution and represent a massive waste of valuable resources that could come from recycling. Lewisham Council, which plays host to SELCHP, has estimated that it could recycle 92% of its waste but in fact recycles only 4%. In contrast the city of Edmonton in Canada has cut its waste by 70%, Flanders in Belgium by 59% and Canberra in Australia by 56%.

Instead of being reckless with our health the government should replace SELCHP and the rest of Britain's incinerators with modern schemes to re-use, recycle and compost our rubbish.

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