“This takes Sutton’s incompetence to a new low,” was the reaction of an opposition councillor on the FibDem-controlled council.
Sutton acquired the equipment, called a Dano Drum, in an effort to meet recycling and composting targets right through to 2020. Croydon, Merton and Kingston councils were all party to the investment in the expensive piece of green kit, which was to be installed at the landfill site at Beddington Lane, where Viridor is now building its industrial-scale incinerator.
“In order to achieve these targets the long-term strategy recognises the need to develop waste treatment infrastructure,” a Sutton Council report from March 2006 helpfully explains. “This has been undertaken firstly by the introduction of green garden waste composting facility and secondly, a Mechanical Biological (MBT) Treatment facility for the processing of residual household waste…
“Sutton Council also developed a proposal for the introduction of an MBT plant (Dano Drum and composting tunnels) for construction at Beddington Lane and was successful in receiving a further £2million grant from the London Recycling Fund. This project was again lead [sic] by Sutton and involved Merton, Kingston and Croydon boroughs. The contract was agreed in September 2005 with construction and full commissioning being expected by September 2006.”
A Dano Drum is a horizontally mounted, rotating steel cylinder fitted with giant-scale electro-magnets which shreds and sorts refuse into components for either recycling, biological processing or combustion. The manufacturers say that, “It reduces the volume of the waste, enhances material recovery and facilitates handling of each waste fraction by its selected final treatment method.”
As well as the public grant, Sutton Council also got an additional £2million funding towards the machinery’s full price.
According to a FibDem council press release in August 2007, shortly after a guided tour of the “award-winning” and “state-of-the-art” Beddington facility by the borough’s then two LibDem MPs, Tom Brake and Paul Burstow, “The new technology for waste treatment will enable the council to meet its recycling target of 50 per cent by 2010.”
Brake, the Carshalton and Wallington MP, was full of praise for the new bit of kit his council colleagues had acquired. “It’s a win-win scenario,” Brake gushed. Burstow predicted that LibDem-run Sutton would be “the No1 London borough for recycling by 2010”.
Brake even suggested that the equipment would “save Sutton Council Tax-payers money by reducing the amount of waste that has to go to landfill”.
Unfortunately for Sutton’s Council Tax-payers, none of that wishful thinking was delivered by their council.
Even with the help of the Dano Drum, Sutton’s recycling rates hardly improved, peaking at 38 per cent in 2010. The rest of Sutton’s unrecycled rubbish continued to be sent to landfill, with Beddington Lane’s landfill site operators Viridor raking in more than £2million from the council for the privilege.
By 2015, all pretence of achieving the 50 per cent recycling target had been abandoned by Sutton, and the Dano Drum was a sorry reminder of the council’s failure on recycling. It was, quite literally, in the way – as Viridor wanted the site for their incinerator which they are building for the South London Waste Partnership of Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton, so that Council Tax-payers can end up paying even more for their waste disposal.
It apparently did not occur to anyone at Sutton Council to try to recycle the recycling machine. The Dano Drum might have had some scrap value, or might even have been sold, second-hand (“low mileage, one careful user”), to a local authority which is really determined to recycle and up-cycle.
Instead, Viridor called in local demolition firm 777 to smash up the £4million Dano Drum. Generously, they did not pass on the cost of that exercise to Sutton. But hey, their 25-year incinerator contract with SLWP is worth £1billion, so what’s a few thousand quid to them?
Nick Mattey, the independent councillor for Beddington North ward who exposed Sutton FibDems’ all-too-close relationships with Viridor, reckons that the council has had to pay at least £2million in extra landfill fees to the operator because of the failure to meet recycling targets.
He can’t be certain of the final multi-million-pound bill facing the residents he represents: even as a councillor, Sutton officials have kept him waiting almost two months for information on the amounts paid to Viridor for landfill. Mattey is convinced that the landfill costs will add up to more than £2million, on top of the £4million wasted on buying a barely used Dano Drum.
“This waste of £6million is scandalous and reveals a level of incompetence and recklessness unparalleled in local government,” Mattey said.
“I thought it was bad enough when they spent £150,000 on a report into the incinerator, and then ‘lost’ the report. But this takes Sutton’s incompetence to a new low.”
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