John Clark writes…
First published: December 2010
North Yorkshire is about to make a massive decision. A £1,400million decision on the disposal of household waste. It will be a £1,400million mistake. Bad enough in its own right but made considerably worse by the fact that they are using our money.
To add insult to injury Ryedale people have been leading the rest of North Yorkshire in a much cheaper way of solving the problem. Ryedale is not only leading in Yorkshire and Humber; it is one of the top 20 nationwide with a recycling rate of 52%. This is without recycling plastic, cardboard or food waste. There is a proposal to recycle plastic and cardboard, lifting our recycling to over 55%.
North Yorkshire is proposing to take all the non-recycled waste to Allerton Park near Harrogate. 10% will be recycled and 15% (the organic waste) will go into an Anaerobic Digester. The rest is to be incinerated.
One big flaw is that the recycled materials will have a lower sale price than those from Ryedale. Mixing it all together and then separating means it is ‘dirty’ unlike the ‘clean’ recycling done by Ryedale.
The Anaerobic Digester has an even bigger problem. Material coming out of the Anaerobic Digester is contaminated and as a result cannot be used on the land and has to be incinerated. Another angle is that of cost. Ryedale District Council does its recycling for under £60/ton. The cost of going through the gate at Allerton Park is £100/ton. Clearly recycling is the cheaper option. This is likely to become even more so as world resources become scarcer. North Yorkshire County Council is working on a maximum recycling level of 48%. Ryedale shows that this is ludicrously low.
Then comes the ‘killer’ argument. The gate price for a Food Waste Anaerobic Digester is £30 to £35/ton. It can then be turned into compost and used on the land. This is a fraction of the North Yorkshire County Council Allerton Park price. Not to mention the obvious environmental benefit of compost over incineration. Using North Yorkshire County Council’s own figures: recycling saves 65.9kg CO2 /ton; treatment and incineration uses 24kg/ton. In Greenhouse Gas terms this is clear cut. What happens if a future government introduces a Carbon Tax? It is likely. As a result the people of North Yorkshire would have a massive extra bill – an increase in Council Tax. Added to this, compost would become even more valuable than oil produced fertiliser. It is very risky to gamble on there being no Carbon Tax in the next 30 years.
There are more risks for the people of North Yorkshire. What if the project becomes unprofitable through insufficient waste, legislation or a Carbon Tax? Will the bankers who are investing in Amey Cespa bail us out? Unlikely, the Bank crisis is being paid for by the public. Will the company take the hit? I am doubtful, as the assets of the company are only £100. When (and I don’t mean if) this project hits a major crisis at any point in the next 30 years it will be the people of North Yorkshire who foot the bill.
Have a merry Christmas.