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Kent's waste contract could be money in the bin

Allington Incinerator
Allington Incinerator

Kent County Council could be losing £1m a year as a result of a long-term waste disposal contract.

Ten years ago, the authority signed a 25-year deal with Kent Enviropower to provide them with 320,000 tonnes of waste to burn each year.

But what was initially seen as a cash-saving opportunity has quickly turned into a money pit, as the council is forced to send increasingly valuable recyclable material to the incinerator in order to meet its annual quota.

Although it was signed in 1998, the contract only came into affect recently as it took nearly ten years to apply for planning permission and building the incinerator, which has been dogged by controversy itself due to high levels of flies and foul odours.

But in the last decade, many more economically and environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal have also been put into action, making the use of incinerators increasingly uneconomical.

Councillor Keith Ferrin, the council‘s environment spokesman, said it had been a ‘stupid’ decision in hindsight, but there had been no way to predict changes to the industry.

He said: “The people who thought they were being very clever and economical with people’s money ten years ago have produced a situation where the reverse is true, as KCC is now committed to a contract we can’t get out of.

“What seemed a very wise decision a very long time ago is a very stupid one today.”

He added: “At the time, people were saying nationally that this was the only way ahead.

“But if you make a prediction for 10 years' time, the only thing you can be certain of is that it will be the wrong decision.”

Mr Ferrin said he could not see a way out of the current dilemma, save for another waste disposal authority buying the contract from them, or the incinerator – which has closed temporarily due to repeated complaints about smells and pests - shutting completely.

He said: “The current closure of the incinerator at the moment is good news, as I have cheaper methods of disposal.

“Finically, it’s much better for the tax payers if Allington doesn’t work, in fact I’d quite like it.

“But it needs to either work all the time or stop completely – stopping and starting is what causes problems for local residents.”

Enviropower said in a statement: "The facility at Allington is key to reducing Kent's reliance on landfill and is part of an integrated, sustainable and environmentally friendly solution to managing local people's waste."

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