West Norfolk moves step closer to finding an alternative to the King’s Lynn incinerator

West Norfolk's waste won't be burned in the controversial incinerator the county council wants to build near King's Lynn.

That was the pledge today after senior councillors agreed to sign a contract with a company which will turn it into an inert plastic used in the building industry instead.

If the scheme comes to fruition, it also means the county council will end up paying to recycle West Norfolk's waste - although the new process, developed by a company called Material Works, will be cheaper than incinerating it.

Brian Long, West Norfolk's cabinet member for the environment, said: 'I'm really excited about this proposal. 'This innovative new technology could see the majority of our black bin waste being recycled and could ultimately increase our overall recycling rate to well in excess of 90pc and the best bits that it will be cost neutral to the council.

'Over the last few weeks we've been engaging with the public with drop in sessions and a public meeting in the town and the general feedback we've had from those sessions has been very supportive.

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'We've also had the results of an independent survey which has indicated that of the 1,000 west Norfolk people surveyed almost two thirds agree that we should pursue this technology.

'Cabinet took this feedback into account when making their decision to recommend to council that we enter into a conditional contract with Material Works.'

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Under the terms of the conditional contract Material Works would receive all the waste collected by the borough council from domestic black bins and sacks and any trade waste that the borough council collects from its commercial customers.

The waste will be sorted to remove cardboard, paper, glass, metal and batteries which will be sent for separate recycling. Material Works would also receive the separately collected food waste.

This would be treated using an anaerobic digester to create methane to power the two processes that treat the remaining waste. Once treated, the remaining waste would be turned into a range of products which act as wood replacement products in industry and construction.

Mr Long added: 'We have recommended that the council enters into a conditional contract which will be dependent on Material Works obtaining planning permission and an environmental permit, confirmation that the borough council will receive recycling credits from Norfolk County Council and confirmation that 'end of waste' certification is in place.'

Other recommendations in the report include that the chief executive write to Norfolk County Council to inform them that the borough council intends to withhold waste collected in black bins and sacks in the borough so that it can be recycled by West Norfolk council.

Members also recommended that the chief executive be given delegated authority, in consultation with the leader, to appoint an independent consultant from the waste industry to verify the process.

Once the conditions have been met, and the independent verification received, it is hoped that the new technology will be up and running by April 2014.

Bill Borrett, cabinet member for environment and waste at Norfolk County Council said: 'I completely understand the enthusiasm and excitement for this new idea. We all want to boost recycling, and it's the county council's policy to support every initiative that genuinely increases the amount of rubbish that gets recycled in our county.

'But many of the claims being made for this particular proposal are extremely premature - including the assertions being made about costs and savings - and there is still a very long way to go before there is any evidence to back them up.

'However, I'm very pleased to see that the borough council has acknowledged this, and made the initiative entirely conditional on successfully passing a number of very strict tests like planning and permitting and waste classification.

'That at least minimises the risks to West Norfolk council tax payers of using a technology that not yet been proven on a commercial scale.

'There are still many vital questions to be answered about this scheme.

So I look forward to receiving the hard facts about this proposal as soon as possible - information that we have been calling for since the idea was first suggested all those months ago.'

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