SLWP applies for £109 million PFI funding

A state-of-the-art waste management facility that will handle the household rubbish of four south London boroughs moved a step closer today.

The South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) – a coalition of the boroughs of Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton – has launched a bid for £109 million of Private Finance Initiative funding.

An outline business case has been submitted to Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), signalling the start of the PFI funding application process. If secured, the funding will contribute 50% towards the cost of building the new treatment facility.

Access to a local facility that utilises the very latest waste management technologies is required if the four boroughs are to succeed in dramatically reducing the amount of waste they send to landfill.

A dramatic reduction in landfill waste is one of the key aims of the SLWP. The incentives for achieving this are twofold:
1. The environmental incentive – when ‘biodegradable waste’ (such as food, paper and cardboard) rots in landfill sites, it gives off methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which is harmful to the environment. Reducing the amount of rubbish buried in landfill sites is a simple but effective solution to this problem.

2. The financial incentive – a massive reduction in the amount of waste the four boroughs send to landfill is required if they are to avoid the heavy fines and the landfill taxes being imposed by Central Government on councils that exceed their ‘landfill allocations’. Increase in council tax or service cuts would be the only way of paying these penalties.

In applying for the funding, the partnership has committed to significant improvements in recycling and composting with the expectation of achieving more than 50% recycling and composting of household waste by 2020.

If the application is successful the tendering process for developing a waste management facility would begin in spring 2009 with the contract award made in spring 2011. It is expected the new facility would become operational in 2014/15.

An extensive public consultation has just been completed as part of the development of the South London Waste Plan. The conclusions of this consultation will be published in December and will inform the partnership about residents’ and business owners’ views on the availability and suitability of sites for future waste treatment facilities.

Chair of the South London Waste Partnership, Councillor Derek Osbourne said: “One of the biggest challenges we face as individuals, communities and as a nation is what to do with all the rubbish we produce. Our application for PFI funding is the second part of the partnership’s phased approach to dealing with the waste we generate and reducing the amount we send to landfill. It will enable the partnering authorities to meet their obligations with respect to the EU Landfill Directive in the most cost-efficient manner, saving tax-payers money in the process. It will also allow the boroughs to significantly reduce the impact their residents’ household waste has on the local and global environment.

“As part of the application for funding we have had to identify a deliverable solution to our waste problem. However, I want to reassure residents in Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton that the technology and sites identified in our application to Defra does not restrict us to these sites or processes. We will be seeking the best possible solution available for dealing with our waste in the future. It will be through continued public consultation that we will make decisions as to the technology eventually used and the location of any future waste management facility.”

Merton Council Cabinet Member for the environment Councillor David Simpson said: “With extensive waste reduction initiatives implemented by the four partnership councils, we expect to achieve the national waste strategy target to reduce the amount of household waste not reused or recycled to 225kg per head per year by 2019/2020. This means that we’ll have to treat 213,000 tonnes of household waste per household per year by 2019/2020 and we want to do this in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.

“If we are successful in securing this funding we would be saving millions of pounds and offering huge value for money to our residents. We all need to reduce the amount of waste we generate in the first place, as continuing to send waste to landfill is not a sustainable option. If we can reuse items like canvas shopping bags and recycle where possible, the amount of waste we as councils have to deal with will decrease. We are going to have to take responsibility for dealing with our own waste by managing it locally. The days of sending it to landfill are numbered.”

Merton Council Deputy Leader Councillor Samantha George said: ‘Applying for PFI credits as one of the funding options at this stage ensures that the SLWP retains flexibility to determine the most appropriate method of securing finance for a future scheme.’