You’re right not to waste money

Galashiels Community Waste Recycling Centre.
Galashiels Community Waste Recycling Centre.

Scottish Borders Council received some respite this week from criticism over its decision to cancel a multi-million pound waste management plant.

The facility, earmarked for Easter Langlee in Galashiels, was due to process 25,000 tonnes of residual waste from across the region each year and produce gas which would, in turn, be converted into electricity.

Shlomo Dowen

Shlomo Dowen

The council has chosen to scrap the 2011 contract with New Earth Solutions (NES) which was to have installed and operated the £23million advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant after it emerged the firm had neither the technology nor funding in place to deliver the project.

Although there have been calls for an independent review of the way the deal was handled – and the £2million in preparatory work which the local authority has been forced to write off – the decision has been welcomed by a national environmental campaign group.

“We are glad the council took the time to re-evaluate this project in light of changing circumstances and hope other councils across the country will do likewise for their own incineration arrangements,” said UKWIN’s national co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen, pictured.

“The council was probably aware this sort of technology was risky, but might not have fully appreciated the true extent of that risk.

“Councils are often expected to make decisions about complex proposals without much in-house expertise and are therefore very reliant on outside consultants who might have little incentive to place the long-term interests of sustainable waste management at the heart of their advice.

“It is not uncommon for local authorities to regret entering long-term incineration contracts which can prove inflexible and overestimate the need for waste disposal capacity. To its credit, it seems SBC at least built mechanisms into the NES contract that allowed it to terminate without prohibitive financial penalties.”

He added: “There are many local authorities across the UK who would love to get out of their incinerator contracts, but who would need central government support to so.

“Various forms of advanced thermal treatment technology have been attempted for waste management and they have all faced difficulties, so it is not surprising there were concerns the technology would not work as advertised.”

UKWIN believes that the council should avoid all forms of incineration when drawing up its new integrated waste- management strategy.

“They should maximise recycling and composting, and look at how to increase the types of biowaste and recyclate they can collect and how to improve the quality of that material,” said Mr Dowen.

“They should avoid paying for new incineration capacity and ensure they are not overly committed to residual waste infrastructure.”