£340m waste contract to allow ‘all types of waste treatment and disposal solutions’

A new scheme to ensure large quantities of waste generated by Essex households is not sent to landfill must allow for “all types of waste treatment and disposal solutions”, county’s waste disposal authority has said.

The new contracts Essex County Council wants to secure for the disposal of 350,000 tonnes of waste generate by Essex households each year will focus on as much waste as possible not going to landfill.

However, it admits that due to the lack of residual waste treatment capacity in the market  – particularly in the South and East of England – complete diversion from landfill cannot be guaranteed.

Essex Council Council said it is “essential” all types of waste treatment and disposal solutions are considered.

It is also recognised that bidders may need to design solutions that draw on ‘different disposal or treatment techniques’ over the period of the contract to ensure the most sustainable and cost-effective approach.

Due to the failure of the Basildon Tovi Eco Park – that had meant to have reduced the amount waste going to landfill by processing 417,000 tonnes of residual waste a year – Essex County Council has been actually been landfilling all its black bag waste since 2020.

Last year a £73million deal to continue sending waste to landfill until April 2024 was agreed by Essex County Council amid a fallout from the failed waste processing plant.

And while county council has yet to devise a alternative to replace the Eco Tovi site in Basildon, it has now started the process to procure contracts for the treatment and disposal of Essex’s residual waste at an estimated first contract year value of £45m and an estimated total value of £340m over the initial seven-year contract term.

It means the contracts will be up for renewal by 2029 at which point interestingly the waste for energy plant being built at Rivenhall is set to have been up and running for three years.

The Energy from Waste part of the facility- which will be set in the 20 metre-deep pit – is on track to begin commercial operations in early 2026, with a capacity of 595,000 tonnes per year.

The Energy for Waste plant is the first part of a larger waste management facility which has been given permission to take 853,000 tonnes of waste per year.

A statement as part of a decision paper with Councillor Malcolm Buckley, cabinet member for waste reduction and recycling, said: “As the Mechanical Biological Treatment facility that was intended to take all of Essex County Council’s residual waste is unavailable, it has been necessary for Essex County Council to use contingency arrangements to meet its statutory responsibilities for waste disposal using a framework agreement that was set up for this purpose.

“Essex County Council are no longer able to award contracts under this framework and the existing service orders expire on March 31 2024, therefore a new procurement is required.

“The service orders in place under this framework agreement involve the landfilling of significant quantities of waste, which is an unsustainable solution in the long-term.

“It is Essex County Council’s desire to stop using landfill at the earliest opportunity and this procurement process will therefore be structured to encourage alternative solutions from the market to reduce Essex County Council’s reliance on landfill.

It added: “However, due to the lack of residual waste treatment capacity in the market (particularly in the South and East of England), complete diversion from landfill cannot be guaranteed.

“It is therefore essential that Essex County Council allows all types of waste treatment and disposal solutions to be proposed by the market to maximise price competition and to ensure that all tonnage requirements will be met.

“It is also recognised that bidders may need to design solutions that draw on different disposal or treatment techniques over the period of the contract to ensure the most sustainable and cost-effective approach.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter