Managers told NCE's Waste Summit last week that the dearth of bidders would threaten a major programme of PFI-funded waste infrastructure unless the bidding process was reformed.
Lancashire County Council director of waste and natural resource management Steve Browne said local authorities should be allowed to select a preferred bidder earlier in the process.
This would allow for more bidders and an extended period of up to 18 months of competitive dialogue with the preferred bidder.
"We are not attracting enough bidders for waste infrastructure because of the cost of bidding for the private sector.
"The danger of losing out leads to a big cost uncertainty. It's not the best way of doing it. We need a process whereby we can negotiate with a preferred partner on an open book process."
Merseyside Waste Authority director Karl Beer agreed there should be more emphasis on competitive dialogue with a preferred bidder.
"We recently held open competitive dialogue and weren't satisfied with the answers and asked for a resubmission.
"We need a longer period from preferred bidder status to contract award to close down issues."