One of the myths concerning NYCC’s waste strategy is that there is no viable alternative to the proposed “Energy from Waste” (incinerator) plant at Allerton. T he claim is that it offers NYCC the best way of dealing with waste and that it is cost-effective. Neither claim is true – there are alternatives that are healthier, environmentally greener, offer greater savings and have the major advantage of offering flexibility i.e. they do not lock us in to 25 or 30 years of outdated technology in a market which is changing rapidly. They also remove the very real risk of financial penalties or extension of use that we are now seeing in Stoke, Hampshire and Sheffield due to over capacity or a shortage of waste.
Unlike incineration, the modern way is to work towards “a zero waste economy”. This means action at all stages of the waste hierarchy to achieve optimal waste management which reduces waste, ensures maximum re-use and recycling and deals with the residual wastes in an environmentally responsible manner. Incineration runs counter to this ideal; many alternative strategies embrace it.
The only options Councillors have been asked to consider are:
1. Do the minimum (ie continue to landfill) which the council estimates would cost £1.8bn. This is both unrealistic and unacceptable but offers a baseline for comparing costs.
2. The AmeyCespa proposal at Allerton Park. It includes a PFI funded incinerator and is based on extremely risky and poorly supported assumptions so is unlikely to deliver the savings promised.
Promised SAVING (against Option 1) £320m
Alternative costed options include:
3. Use small to medium local companies with their own facilities and using their own capital to build further new plant as required, capable of digesting and mechanically sorting black bag waste all without the need to build an incinerator. Councils across the UK are already using this type of operation to dispose of their waste. It includes a permitted level of landfill (within EU guidelines), involves no risk for taxpayers and offers potential for future developments as well as local jobs.
SAVING against option 1 £958m; SAVING against option 2 £638m
4. Working towards “zero waste”, implementing a waste hierarchy where Reduce, Re-use and Recycle are rated above incineration for energy. It is realistically achievable in 5-10 years; indeed many regions and cities across the world have exceeded the 60% recycled rate (e.g. San Francisco) envisaged in this option.
SAVING against option 1 £1.2bn; SAVING against option 2 £880m
5. Bio-drying, a variant of Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT), as operated nearby by Darlington. The first step is to dry and clean the black bag waste, reducing weight by 30-40% (and thus reducing landfill by about 40%) and making it easy and safe to sort. Next, materials such as plastics, metals and other recyclable items are sorted and baled, leaving a residue that can be sold as refuse derived fuel (RDF) or put into landfill. This plant has low capital costs and is technically simple.
SAVING against option 1 £545m; SAVING against Option 2 £225m
Other alternatives – not costed in the North Yorkshire context
6. Mechanical Biological Treatment/Anaerobic Digestion – e.g. the Lancashire system. Such plant both enhances recovery rates and produces useful product.
7. Waste to Energy – using a combination of plasma gasification, anaerobic digestion and engine technology to turn solid and liquid biomass into gas and liquid fuel (e.g. Enviroparks, Brecon).
This list of alternatives is not comprehensive. It does, however, show that there are plenty of alternatives, at least some of which are much cheaper than the option being recommended by your officers and Executive. Despite spending several £million in developing the present proposal over some years, it is surely their duty to see if conditions have changed since that development started. The world has moved on and savings of over £1 BILLION during the lifetime of the contract are on offer. Locking into certainty in costs is unwise if it locks you into excessively high costs.
- Against the current cutbacks now facing us how on earth can this extra saving and reduced financial risk be ignored? (Options 3 & 4 have been brought to the attention of Council Officers who have refused to give them serious consideration.)
- Do you think that is what the people of York and North Yorkshire would want?