Monday, 12 June 2017

Not enough rubbish to go round

DOUGLAS SHEPHERD with yet more revelations from those secret papers

Thousands of tons of refuse from outwith the region would have had to be 'imported' into the Scottish Borders by road each year to guarantee the financial viability of a multi-million pound waste treatment facility at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels.

Scottish Borders Council and their contractors New Earth Solutions (NES) were facing a potential shortfall in the volume of rubbish to fuel the £21 million plant soon after concluding a disastrous deal in 2011 which was to collapse four years later with an accumulated loss running into many millions of pounds.

Details of the 'garbage shortage' are contained in the series of top secret council documents now made public for the first time on the orders of the Scottish Information Commissioner.

To provide financial viability for the waste treatment project SBC had to agree to pay for a minimum of 40,000 tonnes per annum even if the amount collected by the environmental health service fell below that figure. Special provisions were written into the contract document to allow SBC to source "substitute" waste to make up the tonnage figure to 40,000.

Soon after the deal was struck the managing director at NES informed SBC his firm could no longer obtain funding for the construction of a stand alone conventional Mechanical Biological Treatment plant.

One of the main factors was a reduction in SBC's waste tonnage from 45,000 tonnes during the tender period to 38,500 tonnes in 2011/12 due to the introduction of recycling schemes, but mainly attributed to the "current recession". The downward trend in the amount of rubbish generated was limiting the funding available to NES for their Borders project.

And according to one of the confidential reports: "An additional pressure to the council's guaranteed minimum tonnage is the requirement to introduce food waste collections in the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012. This is due to the fact that the food waste forms part of the residual waste stream under the project agreement".

A separate document gives details of a possible money-making scheme in which SBC and NES would submit a joint bid to land a five year contract with neighbouring Midlothian Council to handle that local authority's 25,000 tonnes of residual waste generated annually.

Borders councillors considered the business case with recommendations in private session in May 2011.

The report from chief executive (David Hume at that time) envisaged a contract start date of July 2011, and until the proposed treatment plant was up and running in October 2012 all of the Midlothian waste over this 15 month period would be transported to the Easter Langlee landfill site for burial.

Under the terms of the contract SBC would receive £25 for every tonne of rubbish going to landfill while NES would be responsible for all costs and risks associated with landfill tax and transport.

This report adds: "From the opening of the new waste treatment facility SBC will receive a £4 per tonne royalty for every tonne of Midlothian waste processed".The commercial venture by the local authority and its partner was estimated to bring in £395,000 to council coffers over the five year contract period. The cost of preparing the bid is given as £40,000.

Councillors are warned: "If SBC does not participate in the tendering exercise NES will be submitting a bid. If NES are subsequently successful in securing this contract the waste will be transported to Easter Langlee and SBC will not obtain any financial benefit".

It was also estimated that bringing 25,000 tonnes of Midlothian waste to Galashiels would equate to four or five additional vehicles per day. There were currently 50 vehicles a day accessing the site.

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