Newport council could face up to £900k in landfill fines
3:01pm Monday 16th September 2013 in Gwent news
A GWENT council has dubbed Welsh Government penalties for missing rubbish targets “punitive” after it emerged officers fear fines of up to £900,000.
An internal Newport council report shows the authority believes it may face financial penalties after a recent failure to meet Welsh Government-set targets on how much waste can be sent to landfill.
The council is to now try out an alternative way of treating waste to see whether it can help Newport prevent more rubbish from having to be buried.
According to the report to cabinet member for infrastructure Ken Critchley, the Welsh Government told Newport council it might be fined if it fails to meet the authority's 13/14 Landfill Allowance Scheme (LAS) target of 18,375 tonnes.
“During the first quarter of 2013/14 the council failed to meet the LAS target by 800 tonnes,” an officer wrote.
“If extrapolated to year end this could see the council with LAS fines of £420,000 and potential Welsh Government fines of an additional £480,000”.
Cllr Critchley has decided that the authority should work with New Earth Solutions for five months to trial an alternative way of treating waste to see how much is diverted from landfill.
A report on his decision adds that the council should “assure WG (Welsh Government) that these arrangements are in place and that the fines are an unnecessary punitive measure in driving forward landfill diversion for Newport.”
New Earth Solutions uses a technology known as mechanical biological treatment (MBT) that extracts recyclable material before treating the biodegradable part of the waste, such as by composting.
The plan would be subject to the council's cabinet confirming funding, and will come as the authority looks for an interim solution ahead of the Prosiect Gwyrdd incinerator project coming online.
Newport council and a number of other authorities in South Wales are hoping to meet future landfill targets through the scheme, which would see non-recyclable waste burned, which is not due to start operation until 2016.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: "Local authorities that fall short of statutory recycling targets can be subject to fines, however, these may be waived at the discretion of the Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies.”
Newport council has clashed with the Welsh Government about landfill targets before, having lost a judicial review over them in 2009.
According to the internal report Newport council’s targets were “set at a level that did not take account of the early interventions the council had carried out.”
The Welsh Government sets limits on the amount of waste that can be sent to landfill to meet its obligations under EU rules, with targets for authorities that decline every year.
EU rules stipulate that, by 2020, only 35 per cent of the amount of biodegradable municipal waste put in landfill in 1995 can continue to be buried.
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