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Household waste from across the county will be sent to landfill for at least the next six months, sparking serious concerns about the environment.
The Tovi Eco Park in Basildon was used by councils across Essex for the disposal of household waste but in July operator UBB Waste (Essex) Limited fell into administration leaving black bag waste being sent to landfill.
Essex County Council has confirmed that the use of landfill is a “short-term contingency” but it could go on for at least six months.
A spokesman for the council said: “All black bag waste which would previously have been taken to the facility for processing is currently being sent to landfill under short-term contingency contracts which are due to expire in March next year.
“The contract between Essex County Council and UBB Waste (Essex) Ltd remains in place.
“The council is engaging with the administrative receivers in relation to their plans for the facility.”
Jon Fuller, an environmental campaigner with Friends of the Earth said: “The issue here is complex but the problem with landfill is that if you chuck everything into landfill it can contribute to the release of methane.
“Materials are biodegradable and produce methane which can be 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
“The last thing we want is material that could have been composted or recycled going into landfill and then methane seeping out into the atmosphere, which then accelerates global warming.
“This is far more serious than just materials having not been recycled.
“From the point of view of Friends of the Earth, there needs to be a more dynamic approach from the council which needs to recognise this is extremely serious.
“It needs to find a way to break through the log jam and ensure every material that could have been composted is diverted from landfill to composting and every material that can be recycled is recovered.”
Southend is among the councils to have much of its waste now going to landfill.
Councillor Carole Mulroney, who oversees the environment, said: “Prior to June 29, black sacks were either taken to the Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) plant if it were available or to landfill, with the emphasis on avoiding landfill if at all possible.
“Historically whenever the MBT plant was unavailable, we had to do the same.
“Since July, all of the waste the MBT plant would normally receive has been sent to landfill under short-term contingency contracts which were awarded in November 2019 and are due to expire in March next year.
“Tonnages vary each month but on average around 3,500 tonnes of waste is being taken to landfill each month.”
However, use of landfill comes at a cost to Essex councils due to the government’s landfill tax. Current rates charge £94.15 per tonne for “active” waste – defined as items such as plastics, piping and wood – and £3 per tonne for “inactive” waste – concrete, brick, glass, soil, clay and gravel.
Cllr Mulroney added: “We would ask everyone to help reduce the amount of black bag waste, and thus the expense of landfill, by carefully recycling their waste and placing it in the appropriate pink sack or blue bin.”