Friday, 30 November 2012

Waste - the latest developments

My column in today’s Cornish Guardian revisits the topic of waste. It is as follows:

It is extremely good news that central government has awarded Cornwall Council the sum of £1.56 million to “encourage recycling and significantly increase the number and volume of materials to be recycled in an effort to divert waste from landfill.”

The funding will come from the Department for Communities and Local Government and it means that the Council will be able to introduce an enhanced kerbside service that will collect all forms of plastics (including yoghurt pots, tubs and trays).

I am sure this will be welcomed by everyone who is presently frustrated at the Council’s failure to collect certain plastics and the resultant confusion.

It has been estimated that this move will increase the amount of recycling collected each year by 9,000 tonnes. And there is evidence that such an improvement to the service would be likely to boost recycling in general.

The funding will also be used to support a new scheme to help residents recycle their food waste at home and there will be enhanced recycling at Household Waste and Recycling Centres. This will include the retrieval of materials such as metal and textiles from mattresses.

But while I positively welcome these new initiatives, I do feel they run somewhat counter to the decision of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet, earlier this month, to agree to push ahead with the construction of an over-sized incinerator at St Dennis.

The proposed plant would have an annual throughput of 240,000 tonnes but, at the present time, the extent of Cornwall’s residual domestic waste is 180,000 tonnes.

Enhancements to the recycling service will reduce that still further, leaving a massive void which SITA, the Council’s contractor, would need to fill with commercial or business waste.

Some people have even questioned whether SITA would be able to access such commercial waste from within Cornwall, because of the number of private waste firms that are operating locally and competing with each other to secure access to the waste materials.

The Cornwall Waste Forum has meanwhile published a report from consultants Eunomia on waste management in Cornwall.

The document is critical of Cornwall Council’s approach and claims that an alternative approach could generate “potential savings” of over £300m.

On behalf of a number of councillors from Mid Cornwall, Cllr Fred Greenslade has written to the leadership of the Council asking them to show “due diligence” and looks closely at the Eunomia report. The letter asks Cornwall Council to investigate the veracity of the “potential savings,” to substantiate or refute the findings of the report, and to consider if there is a more sustainable way forward.

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