Two of Britain’s largest recycling plants set to close

Lancashire County Council has revealed that a recent surge in national recycling rates along with the severe financial situation facing the local authority has contributed to the closure of two of Britain's biggest recycling plants.

The organic waste recovery parks at Farington and Thornton are set to close less than a decade after a £2bn Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract was signed by developers Global Renewables.

Lancashire Country Council, which holds ownership and responsibility for running the two sites, told edie that the Government scrappage of the landfilling organic waste penalty in 2013 had significantly undermined the plants’ economic viability.

The local authority also stated that the quantity of organics in residual waste has fallen due to the fact that people are now throwing less food away.

A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “The waste recovery parks were designed to prevent organic waste, such as food left in household bins, being landfilled, as landfill taxes at the time meant it would cost vastly more to continue landfilling organic waste – however, the Government abolished the penalty for landfilling organics in 2013.

“People are also throwing far less food away, meaning the proportion of organics in residual waste has greatly declined.”

The Mail Online reported that thousands of tonnes of local rubbish in Lancashire will now be dumped in landfill sites, but the Council has refuted this claim, vowing to continue to divert a substantial portion of its waste from landfill through more cost-effective methods.

Business as usual

The spokesperson added: “The severe financial situation facing the Council means we’re introducing more cost-effective ways to process some types of waste.

“The changes make only a very small difference to the overall amount of waste we recycle, because the residual waste currently recycled through the processes at the waste recovery parks contributes only 2% of our total recycling. There will be little if any impact on our long-term recycling rates, while saving at least £8.5m a year.

“There will be no change to the way we deal with the recycling picked up from households – which accounts for the vast majority of the waste we currently recycle – and separate facilities will be put in place to continue composting any garden waste collected.”

Similar financial constraints on local authorities across the UK could result in the closure of further recycling plants, according to Environmental Services Association (ESA) chief executive Jacob Hayler.  

Hayler said: “These are difficult times for the recycling industry, because commodity prices have fallen dramatically. When local authorities entered into deals of this kind, there was no expectation the price of plastic, metals and paper might drop so far.

“There is less of a case to invest in recycling, so there could be more closures.”

Right Waste, Right Place

The news comes in the same week that a campaign has been launched to raise business awareness of the Duty of Care legislation and the economic and environmental cost of waste crime.

The Right Waste, Right Place project, supported by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) along with a collection of public bodies, is primarily aimed at SMEs to provide practical information to help companies comply with legislation and keep waste out of the hands of waste criminals.

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said: “The waste ‘Duty of Care’ is a fundamental tool in responsible waste management and prevention of waste crime. Despite its presence at the heart of this industry for more than a quarter of a century, it is still poorly understood and poorly used by many businesses and this project aims to fill an information and advice gap complementary to the new Duty of Care Code of Practice, released by Defra last month. 

“Armed with simple advice, CIWM believes businesses of all sizes and kinds can work better with their waste managers to control their costs, protect people and the environment and avoid prosecution for failure to control wastes.”

George Ogleby

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