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Norfolk set to continue shipping 150,000 tonnes of its rubbish to Europe amid Brexit uncertainty

The waste incinerator at Great Blakenham. Photograph Simon Parker

The waste incinerator at Great Blakenham. Photograph Simon Parker

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More than 150,000 tonnes of Norfolk’s waste was incinerated after being shipped to Europe last year - and council bosses want that to continue.

Norfolk County Council has contracts with three companies to export up to 165,000 tonnes of the county’s residual waste.

Once it has been processed into refuse derived fuel, it is sent to incinerators in Europe, while a further 50,000 is burned at Suffolk County Council’s Great Blakenham incinerator.

Just over 4,000 tonnes is sent to landfill.

But, in the longer term, council bosses face a quandary.

Uncertainty and changes to exchange rates since the Brexit referendum has caused price increases in the export market for the fuel currently sent abroad - and the contracts are set to run out in 2020.

Councillors will be told that trying to get new contracts in place now could see costs per tonne could go up by as much as 10pc under new deals.

That would add an extra £2.3m to the council’s annual bill for dealing with waste.

The council’s costs for its contracts were fixed in advance and those with the three companies which export fuel can be extended for a further year.

Julie Hurn, contracts manager at Norfolk County Council, recommends that approach in a report going before councillors on Friday, November 9.

She said: “As national policy on waste is currently being reviewed and there remains uncertainty about the process of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, it is advisable to extend existing arrangements by one year so the county council can take a more informed view on its longer term approach.”

The agreement with Suffolk County Council is also likely to be extended by an extra year, but in the longer term, the council will need to find ways to deal with waste.

County Hall officers have been talking to waste companies.

But officers say the sheer amount produced in Norfolk, about 205,000 tonnes a year, means contractors are unlikely to want to take on all of it.

Officers also say Norfolk’s policy not to allow incineration - triggered after the abandonment of the controversial proposal to build a burner at King’s Lynn - means some companies are deterred from building a waste treatment facility in the county.

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