Mayor of Liverpool lambasts MRWA waste decision

The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has criticised Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority’s (MRWA) decision to award the area’s £1.18 billion Waste Resource and Recovery Contract to a consortium led by SITA UK. 

Last month, MRWA announced that it had chosen a bid tendered by SITA SEMBCORP UK, a consortium led by SITA UK (a subsidiary of SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT), with Sembcorp Utilities UK and I-Environment, (a wholly owned subsidiary of Itochu Corporation), to have its waste treated at an incinerator at the Wilton International site in Teesside. 

Speaking at the time of awarding the bid, Chairperson of MRWA, Councillor Joe DeAsha, said: “The appointment of SITA as our preferred bidder marks the beginning of an important new chapter in the way Merseyside and Halton deals with its waste resources. 

“I believe that the solution we have chosen is the best for the environment – saving natural resources, generating green electricity and providing value for money for Merseyside and Halton Council Tax payers.” 

However, the mayor has publically voiced his opposition to the decision, saying that had the authority chosen Covanta Energy’s bid, which included building an incinerator at Ince Park at nearby Ellesmere Port, it would have created more job opportunities for local people and been ‘more environmentally friendly and more cost effective’.

‘Massive’ opportunity ‘snatched from its grasp’ 

Joe AndersonAnderson said: “I feel the city and the wider city region has had a massive opportunity for major infrastructure investment snatched from its grasp and hundreds of potential jobs which we desperately need have gone to the North East. 

“I want to understand why the city region leaders have not been involved in such a huge decision and why I, as the Mayor of Liverpool, with Liverpool contributing more to the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority than any other authority, had to read about the decision in a press release after the decision was made. 

“I also want to understand how it can be more environmentally friendly and more cost effective to ship the waste of Merseyside all the way to Teeside some 150 miles away rather than dispose of our own waste locally.

“Although local authorities on Merseyside didn’t want the facility on their patch, a bid was put in to have it in Ellesmere Port, which would have allowed people living in the city region to apply for the jobs created.” 

MRWA has said that is was ‘disappointed’ Anderson had made ‘no contact’ with the authority prior to issuing his statement. 

A spokesperson for MRWA said: “The proposed contract will bring £145 million worth of savings to the authority and its partner councils over current landfill cost. 

“SITA beat Covanta to reach their preferred bidder status as part of a competitive tendering exercise which was scrutinised by the nine elected members (from constituent district councils including three councillors from Liverpool City Council) that make up the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority governance structure. 

“MRWA, through this contract, will divert more than 90 per cent of Merseyside and Halton’s residual waste away from landfill, and will ensure that this region complies with its requirements under the European Union Landfill Directive. 

“The SITA solution will also play a key part in combating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by landfill.” 

Contract details 

Sita site

Artist's impression of the SITA Teeside plant

The 30-year contract covers the annual treatment of 430,000 tonnes of municipal waste collected from six local authorities: Liverpool, Knowsley, St Helens, Wirral, Sefton and Halton. 

The winning SITA consortium bid includes the construction of an energy-from-waste (EfW) incineration facility, comprising a plant capable of producing combined heat and power (CHP), at the Wilton International site in Teesside. 

The CHP will generate electricity for the equivalent of 63,000 homes and reportedly has ‘the potential to provide steam [for heat] directly to adjacent business customers’, though utilising heat from an incinerator is notoriously difficult.

The construction of the facility would see the creation of hundreds of jobs, with ‘around 50 new permanent jobs’ on completion. A further 25 jobs will reportedly be created following the construction of ‘a new rail hub’ at the Potter Group Rail Freight Terminal in Kirkby, to deal with the transportation of waste. 

According to the MRWA, the authority will now work with SITA to ‘move towards financial close’ by early 2014, with the energy-from-waste plant expected to come on stream in 2016 following a two-year construction period. 

PFI withdrawal tied to ‘overcapacity’ concerns 

MRWA is proceeding with this contract, despite the withdrawal of £90 million in PFI funding. Defra took the decision to withdraw £271.1 million in funding from three projects in February, explaining: “We now expect to have sufficient infrastructure in England to enable the UK to meet the EU target of reducing waste sent to landfill.” MRWA is the only authority affected by the decision that is not applying for a judicial review into the matter.

Indeed, fears over residual waste treatment overcapacity are mounting, with a 2012 report by waste management consultancy Eunomia claiming the UK could see ‘overcapacity of 6.9 million tonnes per annum’ by 2015/16. The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) has also warned that some EU states, including the UK, have the capacity to burn ‘more than the non-recyclable waste generated’. 

Read more about the MRWA Waste Resource and Recovery Contract.