King’s Lynn incinerator row re-ignited, after West Norfolk council claims new recycling technology could save millions
New technology could be on stream and recycling all of West Norfolk's black bin waste - a year before the controversial incinerator planned for King's Lynn is completed. But Norfolk County Council dismissed the claims as 'a cynical last minute attempt to disrupt the planning process', as decision day looms over the controversial plant.
West Norfolk council has been in talks with a consortium offering an environmentally-friendly solution to the disposal of so-called black bin waste.
Next week councillors will be asked to approve formal contract negotiations with the group, called Material Works, which has developed a processs which recycles waste into an inert plastic-like material.
Council leader Nick Daubney said the plant would create between 200 and 300 jobs sorting and processing black bin waste, up to 98pc of which would be recyclable using technology developed by the consortium. Project officer Dale Gagen said the techonology was viable and sustainable and cheaper than incineration.
The announcement came as plans for a controversial incinerator at Saddlebow are about to go before the county planning committee.
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Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for the environment and waste said: 'Our view is that the nature and timing of today's announcement is principally a rather cynical last-minute attempt to disrupt the Saddlebow planning process, which will shortly see councillors consider a well-researched, carefully procured proposal that has been years in the planning.
'Regardless of what ultimately happens to waste in King's Lynn in the years ahead, sadly there is more than enough domestic and trade waste in Norfolk to warrant a site like The Willows which will save taxpayers in Norfolk �8m a year in its operation,' said Mr Borrett.
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'As the waste authority for Norfolk we have repeatedly asked the borough council for details of their proposals, but have heard nothing until contacted by journalists today.
'So I fear this is a headline-grabbing attempt to confuse the issue, not a credible plan to help solve the problem of Norfolk's waste.'
Mr Daubney said technology was changing so quickly it would be foolish to enter into an expensive 25-year PFI deal to build and operate an incinerator.
West Norfolk is currently awaiting to hear if it has been successful in applying for a judicial review of Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman's decision to award �91m in waste infrastructure credits to build the incinerator near Palm Paper's plant, at Saddlebow.
It claims such schemes need to demonstrate a broad consensus of public support, while more than 65,000 people voted against the incinerator in a council poll.
Mr Daubney said people living in West Norfolk would be consulted over the new technology proposals.
'Should cabinet and the council decide to proceed with this process, it's where we need a constructive dialogue with the public of West Norfolk,' he said.
'We need to take note of what the public are trelling us and what the industry is telling us. waste disposal and waste disposal technology is moving ahead.
'This will go through the democratic process and I'm determined local people will have a significant say in what we do with this.'
Norfolk Councy Council leader Derrick Murphy said the new techonolgy was unproven and uncosted when it was first shown to councils across Norfolk last September. At the time, he added: 'It's a joke. No-one has even predicted what it will cost.'
But Mr Gagen said: 'We've now seen enough to feel it's a viable technology. It's sustainable, it's affordable.'
Mr Gagen said the council would be applying for end of use certification, which would enable it to reclaim the cost of recycling the waste in credits from Norfolk County Council.
Marterial Works's process would cost taxpayers �55 a tonne. Landfil currently costs �92 a tonne, while the county council estimates incineration would cost �110 a tonne, if the incinerator is built.
Mr Gagen said across West Norfolk, the new process would save �1.3 a year compared to the cost of landfill, and �1.9m a year compared to the cost of incineration.
He said it was expected that contract negotiations with the company would be completed by the end of August and the plant would take between six and nine months to obtain the necessary approvals to be built after that.
The consortium was looking at a number of sites in West Norfolk to site the plant, which would take a year to build and be the first of its kind.
That means it would be operational in 2014 or 2015 - before the incinerator, which is not expected to become operational until 2016.
Material Works managing director Robert Billson said: 'We are delighted that West Norfolk council has selected us as preferred bidder for this contract. This is a revolutionary process that has been developed over many years and is tried and tested. It is cutting edge, sustainable and affordable and represents a major change in the way waste can be handled.
'The core of the process is turning residual waste that has traditionally been sent to landfill into a usable product that has a proven demand. We are all used to recycling our plastics, glass, paper and much more. For the first time, we can now take all the residual waste from the council, recycle it and turn it from waste into a raw material resource.
'This kind of technology is part of one of the fastest growing manufacturing sectors in the world. The process is both clean and green.
'The cost per tonne of landfill currently stands at �92, whereas our process is just �55, which will bring savings of over �1.3m per year to council tax payers in the borough.'