Technology used in failed waste plant unlikely to be used in new strategy

The waste technology that failed so badly in Essex leading to the demolition of a waste plant is unlikely to be used as part of a new waste strategy for the county, the county council has heard.

It means the technology used in the mechanical and biological waste treatment facility (MBT) Tovi Eco plant in Basildon that has now closed and is due for demolition this autumn will not be used again.

The site was meant to have reduced the amount of waste going to landfill by processing 417,000 tonnes of residual waste a year. But it has never met its promises and closed for good following a court judgement in Essex County Council’s favour in 2020.

Since then Essex County Council has been landfilling all of its black bag waste.

Essex County Council says its Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategy is out of date and is now in the process of developing a new one.

Councillor Malcolm Buckley, cabinet member for waste reduction and recycling said he would not want an MBT plant to be part of a new strategy – instead relying most heavily on reducing, reusing and recycling.

He told Essex County Council’s Place Services and Economic Growth Policy and Scrutiny Committee on June 30: “I would be very reluctant to retrace old footsteps where they took us down the wrong path.”

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 the county council is yet to devise an 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.

But whether incineration is the best way to ensure carbon dioxide emissions are kept to a minimum has been questioned against keeping materials in landfill. The county’s current recycling rate is around 54 per cent. And while that has met the Government target it is below the 60 per cent target in the extant waste strategy from 2007.

Alex Creecy Chief Technical Advisor at Essex County Council said: “There are recent reports written by consultants that look at specifically at climate emissions of energy from waste compared to landfill and I think in the UK is the balance is very fine.

“Of the 54 energy from waste plants only nine recover heat and when there is more heat recovery and in the future we hope things like carbon capture and storage then energy from waste is likely to outperform landfill.”

He added: “As part of the future waste strategy we will be looking very closely at the climate change impacts of various waste management options will be to make we pick the right ones and really improve on our climate emissions.

“We have not taken any choices about the future the strategy development is at a very early stage and we have a completely open mind about the selection of the right way forward.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter