County road sweepings to be driven to Rugby at £100k extra cost to taxpayers (From The Oxford Times)
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County road sweepings to be driven to Rugby at £100k extra cost to taxpayers
TAXPAYERS will have to fork out an extra £100,000 to send road sweepings to Warwickshire because of a controversial recycling ruling.
Oxfordshire County Council has spent about £150,000 a year turning sweepings like leaves into compost at county facilities.
But the Environment Agency brought in new rules last May saying sweepings are “too contaminated” with metals to be put on farmland.
The county does not have the technology to meet the strict requirements it would take to make the sweepings “pure enough” for use.
So Oxfordshire County Council has struck a £250,000 annual deal with Leicestershire County Council to send the 4,700 annual tonnes to a facility in Rugby, Warwickshire.
The other alternative would be sending the sweepings to landfill, hitting the county council with fines of £430,000 a year.
Contaminants can also come from plastics, paper and foil as well as leaves, the agency said.
Oxfordshire Waste Partnership (OWP), which co-ordinates recycling efforts in the county, hit out at the agency’s ruling.
Chairman David Dodds, pictured, said it is “overly prescriptive and has unintended financial and environmental consequences”.
He said: “It is OWP’s view that these should be composted along with garden waste collected from households.”
Fifteen samples were taken from county streets by the agency prior to the ruling, he said.
Mr Dodds said: “None of the samples tested contained levels of contaminants greater than would be allowed in compost produced from household garden waste.”
John Tanner, executive board member for cleaner, greener Oxford on Oxford City Council, said “The further it has to be taken the more it costs and that is unhelpful.”
About two-thirds of Oxfordshire’s sweepings – 4,700 tonnes – will be sent away. It was previously composted with garden waste.
Mr Dodds said there are no suitable facilities in Oxfordshire as the technology is “in its infancy and specialist in nature”.
This could boost the county’s overall recycling target, currently 60 per cent, by one per cent, he said.
The specialist facility plant – to take waste after a tendering process – washes the waste using techniques like flotation and magnets.
Some 280,000 tonnes of waste is collected in Oxfordshire each year with two per cent, 6,300 tonnes, coming off the streets.
In October, the agency said further tests in Wales meant it was sticking by its “precautionary approach”.
Agency spokesman Ash Dobson said: “We don’t want substandard compost to pollute land used for food production.”
The results of further trials are being analysed and more guidance will be published in the coming weeks, he said.
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