One of the 2 remaining companies trying to win Leeds City Council’s contract to build an incinerator is Veolia. Veolia runs an EfW plant in Sheffield which has been operational since 2007. The company is now seeking to vary its planning permission for this plant to allow it to source 50,000 tonnes of residual waste from surrounding councils to make up the shortfall at the 250,000 tonnes a year plant following concerns about future under-capacity. The contract was signed in 2001 and already changes in people’s behaviour, increased recycling and an economic downturn is having a detrimental effect on the operation of the plant.
We have said all along that the proposed 160,000 tonnes Leeds incinerator, to be built under a PFI contract lasting as least 25 years, would be subject to the same commercial pressures and we have stated again and again our firm belief that if it became necessary the planning permissions under which such a plant should operate would be varied in order to keep the facility viable. When this concern was raised at the Richmond Hill Forum it was vigorously denied by the then council leader, Cllr Richard Brett (Lib Dem – Richmond Hill), but he did allow that there was provision for a 1% of waste to come from outside the area to cover areas which whilst not in the municipal area of Leeds which still had waste collection controlled by Leeds City Council. We however were not then, and are not now, convinced by these assurances since if this hugely expensive contract were to be signed the council would have no choice but to go along with any changes which the operator wanted or face having the plant closed or running at a substantial loss.
Our suspicions on this matter seemed to be confirmed when we realised that the Jacobs Report, which identified the four sites finally put forward for this project scored all the sites examined for access by road, rail and canal which pretty well ensured that the lower Aire Valley would be home to whichever site was finally selected. Why would bin wagons need either rail or canal access?
We have repeatedly pointed out the fast changing type and amount of waste across our city. We have stated plainly that inevitable future changes in the amount of waste available for incineration will affect the viability of any such plant thereby making it inevitable that waste would have to be imported to fill the shortfall if a combination of regulation, education and recycling succeed in lowering residual waste across the city as seems likely.
The Sheffield project has seen a huge change in its waste stream in just 10 years resulting in it needing to import waste from surrounding areas, the contract for the Leeds Municipal incinerator is planned for at least 25 years so it seems likely to us that whatever the assurances now it is likely that we too will end up shipping in waste from other areas to keep this municipal millstone from crushing us.
The Leeds City Councillors must stop, think and re-evaluate this project.
• Yes we have to deal with municipal waste.
• No we cannot keep sending so much to landfill.
• This technology, financed in this way, is not the answer.
Incineration does not make waste magically disappear it simply reduces the amount of waste to roughly one third but an amount of the ash produced by this process is extremely toxic and requires specialist disposal.
The costs to Leeds Council Tax payers involved in buying this seemingly quick solution to a very difficult and constantly evolving problem by buying an incinerator on the "never never" will burden our children and grandchildren and won’t solve the problem.