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Worcester City Council says scheme was too expensive
WORCESTER has turned its back on more bin collections for food waste – after politicians decided the city cannot afford the costs.
After months of work, Worcester City Council has decided to scrap the controversial idea because of fears it would cripple the budget.
Councillors said it would be wrong to spend £1 million on launching new bins for over 40,000 households “in the current economic climate”.
They also said the yearly costs, estimated at £544,000, cannot be justified at a time when Worcestershire is moving towards building an incinerator at Hartlebury.
One city politician suggested it was one of the worst ideas he’d ever heard – saying it was right up there alongside “twinning with Gaza”.
At the city council’s scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday, Green Party councillor Neil Laurenson registered the sole vote in favour of pursuing the collections, saying vehicles which made the pickup at the same time as general rubbish could be bought.
“The evidence is that food waste collections are, then, no more expensive than collecting any other waste,” he said.
He told the meeting the “real issue is a political one”.
Under the proposal, households would have been handed a third bin container just for scraps like chicken bones, eggs shells and other unwanted food.
But an in-house panel set up to explore food waste pickups has decided to drop the idea, and was overwhelmingly backed by the committee.
It comes at a time when the authority is looking to cut around £3.5m from spending by 2019 just to balance the books.
Councillor George Squires, one of the politicians to lead the investigation, said: “At the time (the panel started work) we weren’t quite sure of the financial situation but we’ve now got sufficient evidence to suggest this will be too costly.”
His view was backed by all parties, apart from Coun Laurenson.
Councillor Paul Denham, from the Labour group, said: “It’s a matter of head over heart for me, because I am yet to be convinced an incinerator is the answer, economically or environmentally.”
Councillor Andy Roberts said the saga had reminded him of the controversial idea from Labour’s Alan Amos to twin Worcester with wartorn Gaza City in 2009.
NEIL LAURENSON HITS OUT AT ‘MISSED OPPORTUNITY’
LONE Green Party Councillor Neil Laurenson has blasted the decision as a “missed opportunity” for Worcester - and has poured scorn on the costs.
During Wednesday’s meeting he said “half of all councils” in England and Wales collect food waste, saying it is now “recognised as a source of wealth”.
Around the UK some authorities are able to sell unwanted food to power plants for generating electricity.
He also said the £1m set-up costs could be made cheaper by avoiding buying eight new vehicles, suggesting that may not have been needed.
After the meeting he also handed your Worcester News a statement about his disappointment.
It said: “The food waste report recognised the great value in collecting food waste, which makes up around 25 to 30 per cent of the waste we throw out.
“It is worth highlighting the fact that over half of all councils in England and all in Wales now run a food waste collection service.
“Treating food waste by composting or anaerobic digestion is far cheaper to treat, costing around £40 per tonne compared with around £80 to landfill and around £130 if incinerated.
“We have learnt a lot from this exercise regarding costs.
“The figure of around £1 million is only if you add collections onto the already existing system and have to buy a new set of collection vehicles and send trucks on a separate round with two staff per truck.
“If we decide now that we would like food waste collections introduced when the collection vehicles have to be replaced, then there are trucks used successfully in many other areas which combine collecting food waste with other recyclables in a pod on the front.
“The evidence is that food waste collections are then no more expensive than collecting any other waste.”
It also said the “real issue is a political one”, pointing to the cross-party support for the incinerator at Hartlebury.
But his stance has already been rejected, with Tory group leader Councillor Simon Geraghty saying it “is not about politics”.
“That’s just nonsense, it’s because we can’t afford it,” he said.
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