York Residents Against Incineration

The Plans

On 29th June 2010, York and North Yorkshire Councils announced their plans for a new waste management facility. The proposal was the result of a successful bid by AmeyCespa for a ‘technology neutral’ tender. So the decision was (supposedly) left to the waste companies, with the Councils getting what they’ve been offered. Not what you call  ‘accountable political leadership’.

So what did the Councils end up with, after this rigorous process?

AmeyCespa’s “Waste Recovery Park”

Two years behind schedule, in June 2010 the Councils announced that AmeyCespa was their ‘preferred bidder’. Their scheme: at a cost of around £1.4 billion over 25 years, AmeyCespa will provide the Councils with a Waste Recovery Park at Allerton Quarry, about 10 miles to the northwest of York.

Click to download a map of the location from AmeyCespa’s own upbeat website built to promote the plan, allerton-waste-recovery-park.co.uk.

The site will compose of three main facilities – an MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatment) plant, which will recover recyclable materials, an Anaerobic Digester (AD), which will compost biodegradable waste (so far so good) … and finally, an ‘Energy from Waste’ incinerator.

The green credentials provided by the MBT and AD plants are put in perspective when one looks at what they’re expecting to do with the waste.

The plant will ‘deal with a throughput of 320,000 tonnes per year of Municipal Waste’ according to the planning application lodged with Harogate Borough Council. AmeyCespa’s Allerton Waste Recovery Park puff-website is rather shier on the figure, quoting ‘over 230,000 tonnes’ (which 320,000 tonnes certainly is).

The MBT plant will recover 11,500 tonnes of recyclable material, and the AD will deal with a further 40,000 tonnes. Respectively, that’s just 3.5% and 12.5% of the waste respectively. The rest – 84% of it – is going up the chimney. This is one big burner.

But on the plus side, the plant will create “up to 70” jobs.

Waste reduction will be penalised

As you’ll have read elsewhere on the site, incinerators need feeding with a guaranteed waste stream. AmeyCespa will lose out if there’s no waste to burn – no electricity will be generated, and it takes time to shut down and start up again. So the Councils have guaranteed to provide a certain amount of waste (‘Guaranteed Minimum Tonnage’) equivalent to 80% of the ‘assumed waste volumes’ for every year between now and 2040.

It is therefore rather crucial that the waste volume predictions are sound. Since they were made in 2005, we can already see that there simply aren’t. The projections underlying the project have already lost all credibility – see the page ‘Waste Volumes‘ for detail on this.

If the Councils fail to deliver 80% of the agreed ‘assumed waste arisings’, they will be fined – unless they can find the waste from elsewhere. So, with incinerators going up all over the country, waste could become a precious commodity – what price recycling then?

The financial case is guesswork

The Councils claim that the plan will bring a £320 million saving to the taxpayer. But this figure is calculated against an entirely fictitious ‘landfill everything’ option in which rubbish continues to rise and recycling rates do not. Using more realistic predictions of the recycling we are likely to achieve (60% by 2020), the PFI scheme suddenly looks like a huge loss-making enterprise. Though not for AmeyCespa, of course.

The business case is also based on total guesswork as to the cost of landfill tax and fines – the values of which have not been set beyond 2014. Marton-cum-Grafton Parish Council have looked in detail at the figures in their second Due Dilligence Report (pdf document). They conclude that the whole scheme could end with us overpaying to the tune of £300 million.

In an era of capped council tax and frozen budgets, this massive project – the largest sum of money that North Yorkshire Councillors have ever committed to a project – will drain resources from other much-needed services. The City of York Council have already started an annual escalator of £750,000 to pay for the project (see the decision on Item 127 of the minutes of the Council Executive from November 30th 2010). For the next five years they will have to find this amount of cuts from elsewhere in the Council budget, until we end up paying over £3 million per year. This is more than we can afford to waste on something we simply don’t need.

The site will compose of three main facilities – an MBT (Mechanical Biological Treatm
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