New technology moves closer to recycling West Norfolk’s waste, as minister kicks King’s Lynn incinerator decision into the long grass
New technology which could recycle waste for half the cost of burning it has moved a step closer after securing £100m in investment.
While the planned King’s Lynn incinerator remains mired in controversy, the company promoting an alternative it claims would create 200 jobs said it now had the money needed to get it off the ground.
Chester-based Material Works, which has developed a process which turns “black bin” waste into an inert plastic, said it was drawing up a detailed planning application to Norfolk County Council to build a plant on an as yet un-named site in West Norfolk.
It said the funding now in place would enable to build up to three similar plants elsewhere in Norfolk, if other authorities chose to follow West Norfolk’s example and recycle their waste.
Material Works managing director Robert Billson said: “We are now set to move this ground breaking project forward. All the funding from major investors is in place and a highly suitable location has been identified, where we are taking an option, subject to a successful planning application.”
Mr Billson said he could not reveal the location of the site because talks were still in progress. But he added: “The new plant will generate up to 200 new jobs. The opportunity for neighbouring district councils to enter into contracts for this safe and highly sustainable method of waste management means that further plants would be built in the area, creating yet more jobs and keeping vehicle movements to a minimum.”
Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk council, said: “It is good news and a major step forward towards our wish to see a plant that can recycle waste in new and innovative way.
“When we had talks with Material Works we set out a number of things we needed including the funding and a suitable site. The funding was always going to be the biggest difficulty.
“I’ve always said that technology should be given the time to develop so that we can recycle and reuse waste in useful materials.”
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “This is a really positive development and illustrates that alternative forms of waste management are available at a competitive price.
“The gate fees of £55 per tonne of waste are considerably less than the fees estimated in Norfolk County Council’s Price Waterhouse document of up to £105 per tonne for an energy from waste plant.
“Re-cycling rates are growing, waste will be reducing and this needs to be factored into any ongoing costs. The economics must stack up and represent good value for the tax payer.”
It remains to be seen whether Communities Secretary Eric Pickles will approve Norfolk County Council’s plans for an incinerator at Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn.
Mr Pickles “called in” the planning decision hours after the county council gave the go-ahead to the burner in 2012. Last year saw a four-month public inquiry chaired by a government inspector into the proposal, whose supporters claim offers a cheaper way and greener way to dispose of household waste than burying it in landfill.
Mr Pickles was due to announce his decision today. But the EDP revealed on Saturday that officials in his office said the announcement was still months away.
Since the public inquiry ended last May, the government has withdrawn £169m in public funding, meaning the county council would have to pay for the plant. But the county council voted by 40 to 38 votes to press ahead with the incinerator in October.
David Harrison, the authority’s cabinet member for the environment, development, transport and waste, said: “I’m very sceptical about this latest development, given that this concept has already been around for about 18 months.
“A demonstrator project was reportedly meant to have been up and running in Norwich by April 2013 and there have not yet been any informal discussions with our planning officials.
“Aside from that, this project - which would use untried and untested technology at an as yet unknown site somewhere in west Norfolk - would need an environmental permit to operate and planning permission, from which a planning inquiry may flow.”
Mr Harrison said that meant the project was “years away from becoming a reality”, whilst the incinerator was “shovel ready”. He added the council needed to be informed of Mr Pickles’s decision “as a matter of urgency”.
Mr Pickles’s office has told the county council it will issue a descision as soon as it is in a position to do so.
Bill Borrett, former leader of the county council and cabinet member for the environment and waste, now leader of the Conservative group, said: “I can’t help being a little bit cynical. They said they could have a plant up in six months but that hasn’t happened.
“If it is as good as it looks on the tin it would be good but I don’t understand why nothing has happened.
“You can’t help but admire that after two years of no progress they are still going but I don’t see it as a credible alternative to the incinerator. If it did work I’m not saying I wouldn’t be all for it but I am a bit sceptical.”