Incinerator plan branded 'outrageous'

A REPORT suggesting Suffolk should build a multi-million pound waste incinerator has been described as “astonishing and outrageous” by an environment group which is calling for an urgent rethink.

By David Green

A REPORT suggesting Suffolk should build a multi-million pound waste incinerator has been described as “astonishing and outrageous” by an environment group which is calling for an urgent rethink.

Friends of the Earth said Suffolk County Council's report - aimed at enabling the authority to comply with future limits on landfill dumping - reeked of “cabinet office local government gone mad”.

It claimed the building of an incinerator would cost the council £500 million over 25 years and require it to send 40% of its domestic waste to the plant - limiting the scope for advanced recycling and composting initiatives.

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The group claimed the council should have opted for a mix of alternative strategies including biological treatments and composting, enhanced waste reduction and recycling schemes.

The council has been warned by its own officers that unless it acts to reduce the amount of waste being dumped in landfill sites it will face an annual Government penalty of £15.5 million by 2012 - more than £63 a year for the average Band D taxpayer.

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Because of Government capping, the extra cost would have to come from within existing budgets and services such as social care, libraries and road maintenance, already being squeezed, would be liable to further cuts.

The proposed incinerator would have two “green” spin-offs - the energy created would be used to generate electricity and heat local homes and businesses.

But Friends of the Earth maintains incineration is unsustainable and will divert resources from waste minimisation, recycling and composting.

Mary Edwards, the group's regional spokeswoman, said: “Opting for incineration is astonishing and outrageous and it flies in the face of public consultations in Suffolk. We would question how they came up with such a decision.”

Ms Edwards said the council would be contracted to send 200,000 tonnes of waste to the plant each year and would reduce the pressure to find alternatives which were “greener”.

It would also divert resources away from more environmentally friendly ways of dealing with the waste problem.

Ms Edwards said she lived in Cambridgeshire which was the top recycling county in England and where the county council had rejected incineration in favour of biological treatments.

Eddy Alcock, the council's portfolio holder for environment, waste management and economic development, said a study by council officers and consultants had clearly shown that incineration was the best economic and environmental way forward.

Although other local authorities had been “frightened” off incineration by groups such as Friends of the Earth, it was normal practice throughout much of Europe.

“The countries that recycle the most generally incinerate the remainder,” he said.

Mr Alcock said the availability of an incinerator would not mean any reduction in the council commitment to maximise waste minimisation, re-using and recycling.

“We will not rest on our laurels. If we exceed our 60% recycling target on domestic waste, which seems unlikely, we can look to trade and other wastes to feed the incinerator,” he said.

Suffolk was already the second best recycling county in the country with a rate of 40% - already above the Government target for 2010, he added.

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