Incinerator could still have role to play in fight against waste

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A WASTE-burning incinerator could still form part of the waste management plans of Hull and East Riding councils after they admitted they have yet to decide how to dispose of thousands of tonnes of household waste.

The councils announced last month they were ending their joint waste management contract with Waste Recycling Group (WRG), a deal that included plans to build an incinerator at Saltend, near Hedon.

But although the termination of the contract appeared to sound the death-knell for the incinerator project – which faced widespread public opposition – it could be back on the agenda after the authorities said they had yet to find an alternative to the increasingly punitive costs of sending unrecycled waste to landfill.

Residents in both local authority areas are currently recycling between 45 and 50 per cent of household waste, and although this could rise it still leaves the problem of what to do with tens of thousands of tonnes of residual waste.

The councils have been sending the excess to landfill sites, but their Government-set allocation is decreasing each year and councils which fail to meet this face fines of £150 per tonne.

In 2008/09, a total of 135,600 tonnes of household waste was produced in Hull, with 95,300 tonnes going to landfill at a cost to the authority of almost £6.2m.

A total of 130,300 tonnes was produced in the city in 2009/10, of which 81,800 tonnes went to landfill at a cost of nearly £6m.

East Riding households produced 199,847 tonnes of waste in 2008/09, and sent 124,396 tonnes to landfill.

A total of 195,759 tonnes was produced in the East Riding in 2009/10, with 114,521 going to landfill.

The council did not say how much this had cost.

The councils have yet to meet to decide their procurement criteria for a new waste management partner when the current deal with WRG ends in March 2013, but it is understood all options are still on the table.

Doug Sharp, waste development manager at Hull Council, said: “We can’t rule anything in or out because we have to be open minded about it, but we are not developing an energy from waste facility (incinerator) with WRG.

“Aside from the cost, landfill is the worst solution from an environmental perspective. We’ll be aiming as close as we can to get to zero landfill, increase the amount of recycling and find an alternative to landfill for the bit that’s left over.”

It is thought the East Riding would like to see local businesses exploit “green” technology to develop small-scale alternatives to incineration.

Symon Fraser, East Riding Council portfolio holder for environment, waste and recycling, said: “The emphasis now is to be even more focused on improving and increasing the recycling facilities that are available to East Riding residents and on moving our current 45 per cent target onwards and upwards, and that has got to be the main issue at the present.

“Long-term, we are obviously going to have to tackle the issue which is still there of how do we deal with our residual waste, and yes there will be challenges presented by that.

“The council is very conscious of the opportunities that there may be for small-scale, more local answers to the residual waste problem.

“The position we are now in does open the possibility for the exploration of other answers to the problem of residual waste and if that can provided locally that’s good.”

An incinerator would, however, not only remove the cost of sending waste to landfill but also potentially allow the councils to generate income from waste management by burning waste from other authorities.

Opponents of the incinerator, which could have burned 240,000 tonnes a year, claimed the technology was obsolete and may have produced harmful emissions.