LOCAL authorities have the right to know the costs associated with waste disposal at the Energy From Waste Plant in Douglas, Port Erin commissioners believe.
The question was first posed by Laxey commissioners’ clerk Peter Burgess, who emailed the Department of Infrastructure asking for a breakdown of costs. Mr Burgess then emailed all authorities and enclosed the response to their email from John Wrigley, head of waste management at the department.
The government is reducing its subsidy of charges for waste disposal at the Energy From Waste Plant (EFW), meaning the costs will rise from the current £35 a tonne to £161 a tonne in six years’ time. Local authorities have warned this makes rate rises inevitable.
Mr Wrigley wrote that the annual cost of running the plant is £9.2m (comprising £5.8m operational costs and £3.4m capital costs), there is £800,000 of electricity income. The gate fee authorities are currently charged to use the facility realises £3.5m, leaving a net deficit of £5.7m.
He said that being charged a gate fee of £35 a tonne, authorities have ‘benefited from unrealistically low disposal charges since the EFW opened nearly 10 years ago.’
He added the plant ‘does represent value for money’. Since it first opened, it has processed nearly half a million tonnes of waste and generated more than 260,412 Mwh of electricity.
Based on the current annual costs of running the plant and the 52,000 tonnes it receives, a gate fee of £162.35 is required to match operating costs with income. The current arrangement is being phased out over six years to ‘provide an opportunity for the authorities to review their waste collection services and respond in a positive manner’.
Mr Burgess emailed the island’s other local authorities, pointing out that the letter ‘does not give any information as to how the £5.8m operational costs are calculated’, adding that, as they are being asked to pay the full gate fee, they should see how the costs are calculated.
Port Erin commissioner Lorna MacKellar said asking local government to carry the costs of a central government facility is ‘disingenuous’.
‘If they [central government] want to reduce their exposure that’s one thing, but to put it entirely on to local authorities, I find it quite mind-boggling,’ she said.
Commissioner Phil Crellin added: ‘It’s a perfectly fair assumption from Laxey that we [authorities] should see the costs that SITA [the plant operator] is charging.’ He said he would like to know the costs, and added: ‘I wish I had thought of [asking for] it myself, to be honest.’
He proposed they respond in support of Laxey’s request and was seconded by commissioner Steve George.
• To reduce the waste and therefore waste disposal costs, authorities are encouraging increased recycling.
On February 5, Port Erin commissioners agreed a new bin for recycling plastic, operated by Buck Recycling Ltd, will be placed by the bus station in Bridson Street.
In information about Buck’s ‘bring bank’ service, the firm said the cost of waste services is ‘being passed on to the local authority to make the government look good’.
Kerbside collection is not cost effective, so Buck recommends more bring bank sites, two or three in each housing estate ideally. They currently operate plastic recycling in Peel, Arbory, Colby, Malew and Laxey and are in talks with Ramsey and Lezayre.
The plan is to have plastic recycling at the current ‘bring bank’ sites and after six to 12 months, hope to introduce sites to housing estates and also take paper and cans.