RISING landfill charges mean councils across the UK are under severe pressure to find new ways of dealing with non-recycleable rubbish – and the result will be a wave of PFI-funded incinerators and similar waste plants.
As the Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month, hundreds of millions of pounds are to be spent in this region on huge new waste incinerators at Leeds, Bradford and Knaresborough, along with two large mechanical waste treatment plants at Rotherham.
All will be funded via PFI, tying local authorities into multi-million pound waste contracts for decades to come.
“PFI is inflexible, expensive and inherently wasteful,” said a statement from the North Yorkshire Waste Action Group (NYWAG), which is campaigning against the Knaresborough plant.
“In waste management, it tends to lead to capital-intensive projects that lock local authorities into long, inflexible contracts.
“This locks out technological developments, discourages greener options and freezes out cheaper solutions.”
NYWAG believes the £1.4bn waste contract due to be finalised this year by North Yorkshire County and City of York councils – covering all waste disposal in the county for 25 years and including the construction of the incinerator – means they will be unable to benefit from future innovations as they will be trapped in a commercial deal to burn all their residual rubbish.
In Doncaster, where the council has agreed a £750m long-term PFI waste deal with neighbouring Barnsley and Rotherham involving the construction of two huge treatment plants, Mayor Peter Davies has similar misgivings.
Though overruled by a vote of the full council, the Mayor and his Cabinet said in a statement in March they did not agree with the scheme.
Nonetheless, the council officers driving through the various PFI waste plans insist they have been thoroughly tested and represent good value for money.