Extinction Rebellion in Portsmouth set to target the city's Veolia incinerator as part of nationwide campaign

ACTIVISTS from Extinction Rebellion are planning to target Portsmouth’s waste incinerator as part of a nationwide campaign to phase-out the plants – but the head of the council has said they need to be ‘realistic’.

By Richard Lemmer
Friday, 17th September 2021, 11:43 am
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 5:43 pm

The group will be staging a protest outside the Veolia site in Quartremaine Road, Copnor, at 10am on Saturday, September 25.

The protest is part of a nationwide Stop The Burn campaign against plans for 50 new incinerators to be built by 2030.

Extinction Rebellion Southsea says the creation of the new plants will add 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year while existing incinerators ‘undermine’ efforts to cut down waste.

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Workers outside the Veolia recycling plant in Quatremaine Road in Portsmouth on June 2, 2021. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Selma Heimedinger, 21, a Portsmouth-based coordinator with the group, said: ‘Incineration harms recycling rates, and undermines any transition to a circular economy.

‘The areas with the highest incineration rates have the lowest recycling rates, which we can see in Portsmouth where recycling rates are way below UK average.

‘Why are we still burning waste when we know it can be reused, recycled or repurposed?’

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Extinction Rebellion activist Selma Heimedinger before dumping fake oil into a children's paddling pool in front of the Barclays branch in Commercial Road in April. Picture: Richard Lemmer

Extinction Rebellion will use its upcoming protests to highlight five demands sent to the UK government.

The group is calling on politicians to stop the construction of new incinerators, commit to taxing and then phasing-out incineration, ban burning plastics by 2025, and publicly report all of the plants’ emissions.

In 2018, a cross-party report into the pollution caused by incinerators across the country claimed that Portsmouth is one of those that has exceeded the Environment Agency's guidance.

Between 2017 and 2018, Portsmouth City Council was ranked as the 14th worst local authority for recycling, with just 24.8 per cent of rubbish being recycled, compared with the national average of 45.7 per cent.

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said the recycling rate is ‘getting signficantly better’ with the introduction of food waste bins and that incinerator had an important role in stopping waste going to landfill.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson: ‘The incinerator means we send only four percent of our rubbish to landfill.

‘It’s very important that we have got decent air quality – it’s absolutely crucial.

‘But we also have to make sure that we have realistic facilities.

‘What the incinerator does is turn our rubbish into electricity – about a quarter of Portsmouth gets their electricity from rubbish.’

Hampshire Constabulary said it would work to find ‘the right balance between often competing rights’ when it came to the upcoming protest.

A spokeswoman from the force said: ‘The ability to protest is a fundamental part of democracy and it is a long-established right in this country.

‘We take our role in facilitating peaceful protest very seriously and work hard to find the right balance between often competing rights.

‘We will always work to maximise the safety of protestors, the public and police officers involved, preventing criminal behaviour or disorder and deescalating tensions.

‘We have significant experience in policing protests and other large public events safely and peacefully.’

The Southsea branch of Extinction Rebellion staged a protest outside banks in Commercial Road in April, dumping fake oil to highlight the financial institutions involvement with the fossil fuel industry.

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