WEARSIDERS’ waste is now being burned to produce energy after the launch of a new £176million project.
Rubbish from homes in Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead is no longer being dumped in landfill sites and is being taken instead to an Energy from Waste (EfW) plant in Teesside.
Councillors from the three areas formed a partnership and voted to bring in the system to meet European landfill targets.
Tony Alder, project director at the South Tyne and Wear Waste Management Partnership, said: “These new developments are the realisation of our very ambitious plans to significantly reduce our reliance on landfill and provide our residents with a greener waste management service.
“Thanks to these new facilities, we are proud to be able to say that we now divert 95 per cent of our waste away from landfill and, instead, put it to good use – either by recycling it into new products or treating it to produce electricity.”
The new EfW plant on Teesside and three local waste transfer stations were due to start operating this week after a three-year building programme.
The controversial decision to build the plant came after the three councils looked at a range of options for dealing with waste.
The EfW was chosen as the best option, in face of strong resistance from opposition councillors and green campaigners.
Those opposed to the plans said there were greener ways of dealing with the waste and were concerned about the cost and financing of the project.
Waste firm SITA UK won the contract to operate the system, and built new facilities at its existing site in Teesside – allaying fears a giant incinerator would be built in Sunderland.
A £727million deal included the construction of the facilities and the cost of operating them over the next 25 years. A total of 66 new jobs have been created to run the scheme.
The multi-million pound investment means 190,000 tonnes of rubbish collected from 284,000 households each year will now be treated to generate power for more than 30,000 homes.
Each of the council’s bin wagons will take waste to the three new transfer stations, including Hendon in Sunderland
Once there, the rubbish will be sorted to remove some recyclable materials and put onto larger vehicles for onward transportation to the facility in Teesside.
The new arrangements will save 64,000 tonnes of carbon per year compared to sending waste to landfills – the equivalent of taking 21,700 cars off the road.
Tim Otley, general manager for SITA UK, said: “The South Tyne and Wear Waste Management Partnership’s investment in new infrastructure and modern technology is an effective illustration of how local authorities can begin to meet their commitments on diverting waste from landfill by delivering more energy from renewable sources.
“SITA UK is delighted to be a part of this more sustainable future.”
The South Tyne and Wear Waste Management Partnership was awarded £73.5million of Private Finance Initiative funding from Defra in July 2008 to go towards developing a treatment solution for waste that cannot be recycled.