They can’t ‘pass the buck’. Under Cllr Murphy’s leadership voters were ignored, the contract was signed and millions of pounds were committed to the incinerator regardless of whether it’s built.
The new administration is currently blameless. October 28 offers a way out; NOT signing the Revised Project Plan ends the contract on the same terms as planning failure.
There are lessons to be learnt from the United States and Germany.
In the United States people in Harrisburg wish they had abandoned their incinerator, which has taken them to the brink of bankruptcy.
Harrisburg is not alone, The Wall Street Journal investigated the rise and fall of EfW incinerators across America, it found “officials paid little mind to the economics of burning trash. Very simply the current economics are terrible, requiring residential and commercial – as well as taxpayers – to pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year over and above the going market rate for trash disposal.” Professionals who advised to build the incinerators, profited handsomely from fees, “the public sector got most of the risks and the private sector most of the rewards”. Authorities guaranteed a certain amount of waste at a set price. Then the market price for disposal plunged.
This article could easily be describing Europe and the UK today. The circumstances are so alike, even though it was published on August 11. 1993.
Germany followed the same pattern.
In February 2012 Germany national TV channel ZDF (equivalent to the UK’s BBC1), investigated waste disposal costs for taxpayers using incinerators.
Auditors examined the financial accounts of nine German incinerator companies and concluded ratepayers pay too much.
They proved taxpayers were paying double and even triple the going rate; authorities could not re-negotiate contracts due to long term periods (20 years) and that incinerator operators typically made up to 40 per cent profits.
It was found that an incinerator in Hamburg charged taxpayers more than double the cost for their waste disposal and in Bielefeld the operators charged ratepayers over 3.5 times the cost.
In January 2012, the regional newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt”reported that the EON incinerator in Hamburg-Stapelfeld could soon close due to lack of waste; as both Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein have introduced better recycling and thus have no further need for it. More than 500 homes will be left without heating when it closes.
Generally as contracts now reach their end, German authorities are increasingly looking at cheaper recycling-based solutions not renewing expensive incinerator contracts.
Operators are increasingly looking to import waste from abroad to keep furnaces burning.
Instead of copying their mistakes we must now maximise our own recycling. The UK is already on track to meet or exceed waste treatment capacity. If Norfolk does not get out while it can, there will be a far higher price to pay later.
It will not be Cllr Murphy’s fault if the Revised incinerator Plan is signed on 28th October; he has gone.
Councillors voting on the day now carry the full responsibility for the decision.
Let’s hope they get it right!