Croydon Council, by signing up with the South London Waste Partnership, has gone into the incineration business. For 25 years, our council will be spending £10 million a year for the privilege of polluting the south London atmosphere. Meanwhile, someone will be making piles of money. WALTER CRONXITE reports
There are some serious cost implications for councils that sign up for incinerator deals, as Croydon and our neighbours in Sutton and Merton have done.
At present, a council may pay around £100 per ton of waste sent for landfill. This will be made up of £15 to the waste operator to bury it, and £85 in Landfill Tax to the Government.
When an incinerator is built, a local council which chooses to go for the burn could be paying between £80 and £120 per ton of waste to the incinerator operator.
That represents a tidy increase in revenue of at least 500 per cent for the incinerator operator.
In south London, on the borough boundary between Sutton and Croydon, at Beddington Lane, Viridor operate a near-capacity landfill site. They are now building a waste incinerator on the site, which will soon be burning the rubbish of four London boroughs – Kingston and Merton, as well as Sutton and Croydon: the South London Waste Partnership. Viridor have an agreement to operate the incinerator for the SLWP over 25 years for £1 billion – roughly £10 million per year from each of the four councils.
The four London boroughs have claimed that they will save £200 million over 25 years by moving to incineration. But this seems increasingly unlikely.
Local authorities that are paying less than £100 per ton for its waste to be incinerated – instead of paying charges for landfill – are saying that this represents a “saving” for Council Tax-payers.
It’s the sort of nonsense sleight-of-hand that all small-town politicians, like those who inhabit Croydon Town Hall and the Sutton Civic Centre, try on from time to time to bamboozle the local papers and pacify local residents.
But the councils’ position overlooks a couple of very important considerations which might just come back to cost Croydon residents even more in the years to come.
One is the very likely possibility that an Incineration Tax will be introduced soon. Sweden introduced one in 2007 and many other European countries now have one. The Liberal Democrats – remember them? – have a tax on incineration among their policy commitments.
Any such taxation will of course increase the costs to a local authority of using an incinerator and immediately cancel out any cost savings of incineration.
There is also an obvious conflict for any company which operates an incinerator while at the same time, supposedly running a recycling plant.
Because every ton of rubbish that gets recycled will be one ton of waste less that the company will be paid to burn.
A company that runs a recycling plant can reject a load of material that is meant to be recycled if it says it has been “contaminated”. Some recycling plants have a contamination rejection rate as high as 20 per cent.
When the company operates a landfill site, there is little financial incentive to reject recycling material, because they will make just £15 per ton.
But if the rejected “contaminated” recycling material is sent to an incinerator, then they will receive £100 per ton.
At present, if a lorry with a 20-ton load of recycling material gets rejected at the plant gates, the landfill operators will receive £300, with prices so low for recycled material the plant will lose money.
But if the alternative to recycling is incineration, then the plant operators stand to make at least £1,600 per lorry-load of rejected recycling material.
There is nothing in law at present which prevents an incinerator company paying a commission to a recycling company on every load it diverts to its incinerator. Cushty.
Unless, of course, you happen to be the local authority that is paying for this wasteful practice, or the environment, which will suffer for every ton of recyclable material that we pay to have thrown into an incinerator.
And as they say in Yorkshire, where’s there’s muck, there’s brass.
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