ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners are celebrating after a hi-tech waste solution was brought in to stop tonnes of rubbish being sent to a controversial landfill site.
Residents Against Toxic Site (Rats) is delighted that household waste from Wearside will be steam-treated, instead of buried directly in Houghton Quarry.
But the campaigners, who include three independent city councillors, are unhappy that the measures are simply a stop-gap until the controversial energy-from-waste incinerator comes on line.
Group chairman and Copt Hill councillor Colin Wakefield said: “Rats are delighted that after a 13-year struggle, waste disposal has moved into the 21st century.
“Unfortunately this contract, however welcome, has come too late to prevent 13 years of misery to the residents of Houghton.”
Coun Wakefield said the dump was a foul-smelling eyesore which attracted vermin and posed health risks.
Sunderland Council awarded waste firm Alex Smiles a multimillion-pound contract last month, to handle waste from Wearside’s green general-waste wheelie bins from households across the city.
The company will transfer waste to Gateshead’s Graphite Resources for treatment at its autoclaving plant, which acts like a giant pressure-cooker to steam clean waste. Non-recyclable materials will still go to landfill.
Coun Wakefield said Rats had been championing autoclaving for the past five years as the most cost-effective and environmentall- friendly waste disposal solution available.
He urged the council to use the scheme long-term and suspend plans to use the energy- from-waste facility.
Stephen Pickering, of the council’s City Services department, said Energy from Waste remained the best long-term solution to deal with Wearside’s waste mountain.
Mr Pickering said: “Sunderland City Council has awarded a short-term contract to Alex Smiles Ltd, which will deal with the waste from the green wheeled bins.
“The contract involves sending 99,000 tonnes of waste to landfill and around 8,000 tonnes to a processing facility each year.
“This arrangement will take us up to 2014, when Sunderland will join-up with Gateshead and South Tyneside councils to recover electricity from our waste at a SITA energy-from-waste facility on Teesside.
“Treating our rubbish this way will save the partnership’s residents over £300million over the contract period, compared to sending waste to landfill. It will also generate enough electricity to power 37,500 homes.
“The long term SITA solution was proven to be the best after a detailed and transparent tendering process in which a range of technologies including autoclaving, energy-from-waste, gasification and mechanical and biological treatment were assessed – some of which were judged not to be suitable solutions.”