Essex county council is ‘urgently’ procuring a short-term refuse disposal contract to avoid a waste treatment capacity gap of up to 255,000 tonnes.
The council fears that it will be unable to fulfil its statutory obligations as a waste disposal authority as its current RDF export and landfill arrangements reach expiry.
Essex, along with its partner unitary authority Southend-on-Sea, is seeking a contractor to transfer and dispose of municipal waste for up to 12 months.
Split into two lots, the contractor will be expected to dispose of waste arising directly from the kerbside and RDF outputs from the Basildon mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant, as well as delivering a merchant waste transfer station.
Outlining the procurement, the council notes: “Following an unforeseen situation, the Authority’s existing contingency residual waste disposal arrangements will expire sooner than anticipated.
“This state of urgency requires the Authority to utilise the Accelerated Open Procedure in order to secure a new, short-term contingency contract whilst medium-term arrangements are procured using the conventional procedures.”
At a meeting of Essex county council’s cabinet on 21 February, councillors met to discuss how waste would be treated should its MBT facility on Courtauld Road become ‘wholly or partially unavailable’.
The plant, which is operated under a 25-year PFI waste contract with Spanish-owned consortium Urbaser Balfour Beatty – UBB Waste (Essex) – is designed to treat up to 420,000 tonnes of waste per year.
However, the plant has been undergoing commissioning since November 2014 and is still only producing around half of the estimated 180,000-220,000 tonnes of waste fuel expected through the contract, which is exported to merchant energy from waste plants in Europe (see letsrecycle.com story).
A report to cabinet by Margaret Lee, executive director for Corporate and Customer Services at the council, confirms that its current disposal contract for these waste fuel outputs is due to expire imminently, while its contingency landfill disposal framework contracts have also now expired, ‘which means no further orders can be placed’.
This leaves a 255,000 tonne capacity gap in Essex and Southend waste which was previously being treated through RDF export or landfill.
“To do nothing would leave ECC open to risk of failing to meet its statutory obligation as Waste Disposal Authority by having an inadequate disposal solution.”Margaret Lee, executive director for Corporate and Customer Services
Essex county council
The council notes: “If all the Council’s waste were required to be disposed of using these contractual arrangements that requirement would increase to up to 400,000 tonnes of untreated waste including Southend.
“To do nothing would leave ECC open to risk of failing to meet its statutory obligation as Waste Disposal Authority by having an inadequate disposal solution.”
While the council has given no details on its medium-term arrangements for waste in the county, the report warns that the move away from landfill could see it become exposed to ‘price fluctuations’ as it ‘tries to find disposal outlets on an ad-hoc basis’.
At a meeting in September 2015, the council resolved to enter into 10-year service contracts with merchant energy from waste plants from 2019/2020 spread over ‘multiple 50,000 tonne lots’.
Until now the authority has agreed on gate fees of £95 per tonne for RDF and £102.60 per tonne for landfill. It warns any increase in price will create an additional financial pressure on its services which will need to be offset.