Norfolk councillors back MBT bid for £500m contract


A cross-party group of councillors in Norfolk has recommended appointing local firm SRM to build an MBT plant for the county – rather than WRG's incinerator proposal.

The Project Board overseeing the procurement of the county's £500 million, 25-year residual waste contract backed SRM unanimously to be preferred bidder at a meeting last night.

A computer-generated image showing the proposed MBT plant for Costessey
Sustainable Resource Management wants to run the contract with a mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facility to be built at a site next to its parent company's existing sorting plant at Longwater Industrial Estate in Costessey.

The recommendation to appoint SRM – a subsidiary of county council-owned Norfolk Environmental Waste Services (NEWS) – as preferred bidder represents a complete turnaround from the county's original decision, 13 months ago, to appoint WRG as preferred bidder with an incineration plan (see letsrecycle.com story).

The incineration proposal had received vocal opposition from local residents, newspapers and politicians. WRG also had difficulty securing sufficient land for its proposed energy-from-waste plant. The Project Board is now recommending appointing WRG as reserve bidder.

"Better value"
The Project Board said a revised bid from SRM had proved "better value for money" than WRG's recycling and energy centre bid.

The change has come because SRM has dropped its intention to produce refuse-derived fuel that would have been burned elsewhere, possibly at a cost to SRM.

Instead, the company is to use anaerobic digestion with the MBT process to treat biodegradable material, producing a biogas that SRM can use to generate energy, which should bring in an income for the company.

In a detailed evaluation of the proposals, which looked at issues including quality and cost, SRM scored higher than WRG.
- Cllr Ian Monson, Norfolk CC Project Board
The final decision on the appointment of SRM as preferred bidder should now come at a meeting of Norfolk county council's cabinet on March 20. A county council review panel will also discuss the Project Board's decision at a meeting on February 9.

The new MBT facility could be up and running within three years of the start of construction.

Cllr Ian Monson, chairman of Norfolk county council's Residual Waste Treatment Project Board and cabinet member for environment and waste, said: "The Project Board is recommending that Cabinet selects SRM as preferred bidder, subject to the key issues being finalised, and WRG as reserve bidder for Contract A of the Residual Waste Treatment Project.

"Our unanimous decision has been based upon careful consideration of all elements of the updated bids. In a detailed evaluation of the proposals, which looked at issues including quality and cost, SRM scored higher than WRG.

"Importantly, SRM’s updated bid is the most economically advantageous tender and is better value for money so would cost significantly less to deliver. It also has the potential to offer even more benefits to the people of Norfolk than its previous bid. Clearly there is still a long way to go but nonetheless I see this as a very positive step forward for everyone in Norfolk," Cllr Monson added.

Norfolk's 25-year residual waste treatment contract is one of two similar-sized residual waste treatment contracts to be let by the county council, with the other contract to be procured after the first is finalised.

SRM is developing its own technology which would have the capability of recycling about 43,220 tonnes of materials each year – about 27% of the residual waste stream, the Project Board said, including plastics, paper, sand and metals.

Residues from the process would be used to restore land. NEWS has said its project "does not involve any burning of waste", which, it added "will hopefully help with the concerns raised by a number of residents and interested groups".

Commenting on the recommendation of the Project Board, NEWS managing director David Beadle said: "We are delighted to receive recommended preferred bidder status for SRM. We firmly believe that MBT is the most effective, viable and environmentally friendly way to deal with Norfolk’s waste.

Related links:
Norfolk: Future of waste
"This project represents a huge opportunity for Norfolk to be at the forefront of waste management in Europe, and we are very excited now to be moving this remarkable project forward," Mr Beadle said.

WRG, now owned by Spanish construction giant FCC – has now switched its proposed £90 million recycling and energy centre to a site at a former Anglia Water sewage works at Whitlingham. Its bid remains "in second place", Norfolk's Project Board said, "in case a final contract is not successfully concluded with SRM".



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