By Chris Bishop
Friday, November 30, 2012
Pioneering technology which it is claimed will turn rubbish into plastic was last night given the go-ahead by West Norfolk council.
But Norfolk County Council insisted there was still a long way to go before it could be considered a serious alternative to its proposed incinerator.
At last night’s full council meeting, West Norfolk voted to enter into a formal contract with Material Works, the consortium behind a new process which turns “black bag” waste into an inert building material.
After the meeting Brian Long, the council’s deputy leader, said: “The black bin waste scheme has been approved unanimously, with a very slight ammendment.
“I think it shows very much that there are alternatives out there in terms of how we deal with our waste. This obviously moves this alternative forward.”
Mr Long added the “slight ammendment” was that other plants would have to be built if other councils in Norfolk decided to use Material Works’s technology to comply with the proximity principle, that waste should be dealt with as closely as possible to the community which generates it.
Material Works said it was in the final stages of choosing a site for a plant which would be operational in two years’ time and create up to 300 jobs.
It said at £55 a tonne, the cost of processing the waste through its system was cheaper than both incineration or landfill.
But Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for environment and waste said: “They say it might be cheaper if everything works, if everything comes out how they want.
“The reason they can sign that tonight is that there are so many other caveats in there - if the process works, if they get an environmental permit, if they can find a site, if Material Works can find the necessary finance, it might work out at £55 a tonne.”
Mr Borrett said in February, the county council would be launching a new initiative to attract new operators into the waste industry.
Returning to Material Works’s process, he said: “If it’s a good idea and it does what it says on the tin, I’d want it for the people of Norfolk.
“I wish them well, there’s a million tonnes of waste out there in Norfolk and the Saddlebow proposals will only deal with 170,000 tonnes of it.”
Material Works’s managing director, Robert Billson, said: “Now that the contract has been ratified by all the members of the borough council, we shall be able to finalise the acquisition of the site to complete the construction of the new local facility where the material will be processed.
“We currently have a number of options for sites, which have been shortlisted and we will begin the detailed planning consultation process immediately.”
Mr Billson said Material Works also planned to build a full-scale demonstrator plant for their new process, which was called Saltus.
He said it was a process which combined residual waste material with polymers to create a compound which could be used to make parts for building and construction products.
“King’s Lynn and West Norfolk will be on target to achieve a recycling rate in excess of 90pc, which will be a landmark achievement and sets a new standard for other councils all over the country.”
Norfolk County Council gave the incinerator planning permission in July. But the decision was called in by Communities secretary Eric Pickles, meaning there will now be a full public inquiry, which is due to start on February 26.
Hundreds walked out of a pre-inquiry meeting on Wednesday, because the government inspector chairing it could not hear them or be heard because of lack of microphones.
Last night it also emerged that Norfolk County Council had agreed to help meet Cory Wheelabrator’s costs of representing itself at the public inquiry, as well as its own.
The disclosure came days after the council said it did not yet know how much its own costs would be. Mr Borrett said: “As you are aware it is the Government who has called in this application for examination.
“We welcome its independent look at the process, and the county council and Cory Wheelabrator, as its contractor working on its behalf, have to meet the necessary costs involved.
“The split is as follows, Cory Wheelabrator will meet their costs up to an agreed five figure sum with the County Council meeting 90pc of the rest above that.”