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Waste management chaos undermines DEFRA strategy

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ENGLAND'S LATEST waste strategy, published for consultation last week, will fail because the market for building new waste management facilities is in chaos, engineers and contractors warned this week.

Local authority ignorance, over-prescriptive contracts, a convoluted planning system and still relatively cheap landfill costs are all blamed for hampering development of waste handling capacity.

'There is economic failure in the marketplace and many local authorities are tendering in the wrong way, ' said Biffa Waste Management director Peter Jones.

'They are placing too much risk with the private sector, who then won't bid for the contracts, ' he said.

Last week the Department for the Environment Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) put a review of its waste strategy out to consultation.

It wants to see an increase in recycling and incineration projects as well as a reduction in waste at source.

DEFRA wants recycling to increase to 50% of all household waste, by 2020. It also predicts that the amount of municipal waste converted to energy will increase from 9% of the total produced to 27% by 2020.

Waste management contractors said that private companies were refusing to build new waste facilities.

This is because landfill costs are still low enough to make it cheaper than new treatment options like mechanical biological treatment, gasification and incineration.

They also claim that local authorities are either failing to develop these schemes or are tendering them in a way that alienates the private sector.

'What we need in contracts from local authorities is what outcomes they require including price, what the recycling targets are, and who owns tradeable permits. We will decide on the best technology, ' said Jones.

'We won't respond to contracts that tell us how to treat the waste. You don't tell a bank what type of note counting machine to use before you open an account with them. If using 30,000 giraffes is the best way to treat the waste then that is up to us, ' he said.

Waste management contractors body the Environmental Services Association (ESA) accused local government of expecting the private sector to bear too much risk. It said councils wanted to let contracts for sites without planning permission and often failed to set clear objectives within contracts.

'From a private sector point of view we want to build these facilities but we need clearer regulation and want the planning regime to be streamlined, ' said ESA policy director Mike Walker.

ICE Waste Board vice chair Peter Gerstrom said that many local authorities failed to treat waste as a priority.

'The problem is that the waste has not hit the political radar.

Building new facilities costs money that politicians don't want to spend because it incurs council tax problems.'

INFOPLUS Read the government's waste strategy review at www.nceplus. co. uk

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