Birmingham City Council has been urged not to repeat the mistakes of the past when its 25-year waste disposal contract with multi-national firm Veolia ends.
The deal, which was struck in 1994 and led to the construction of the massive Tyseley Incinerator, which turns waste into energy, was not future-proof and has seen the city council miss out on a potential financial bonanza from recycling, a report has claimed.
Now, in a report by the council's sustainability scrutiny committee called 'From Waste in Resource', officials are being urged to look to the future when they draw up plans for waste disposal after the contract ends in 2019.
They are also being urged to create more household recycling centres as the five currently operated by Birmingham are inadequate for a population of one million - particularly in the south of the city.
Chairman of the review committee Coun Victoria Quinn said: "This is not about rubbish or bins. It's about turning waste into a resource and recognising that where there's muck there might be brass."
She said that, after 20 years of the current deal, there were lessons to be learned.
"It's an important decision and we've got five years to make it," she said.
"We need to ensure the next contract is future-proof. In 1994, when we set out the last contract, there was no flexibility to build in ideas of recycling which are now commonplace."
She added there was also no planning for the range of European Union laws which now surround recycling and waste disposal.
Coun Quinn (Lab, Sparkbrook) also warned the priority should not be cost as this could stifle innovation and enterprise - although the current £35 million-a-year waste disposal budget will be a consideration.
She said: "Central to all this is the Tyseley plant. We will get it back in 2019. It has an economic life until 2035. We have three options, do we scrap it and start again, do we retain it and modernise or do we retain it and sweat it.
"This needs to be clear and costed over the right period of time - something we didn't do in the last contract."
Her view of the failings was echoed by Conservative waste services spokesman Coun Deirdre Alden (Edgbaston).
She added: "In the early 1990s, no-one in the Labour group realised there would be any value in household waste and to allow Veolia to own whatever it picked up seemed like a good idea.
"Now it seems like a bad idea as all those valuable bottles and cans belong to someone else."
Labour cabinet member for a green and smart city, Lisa Trickett, welcomed the report and said it would underpin their deliberations over the future waste strategy.
She added: "We want to look at waste and how it can create jobs and energy for the communities of this city."
A panel is now being set up to draw up the detail of the future waste strategy.
The report has been broadly welcomed by Birmingham Friends of the Earth but it said it was concerned at the continued use of the Tyseley Incinerator.
Spokesman John Newson said: "It is vital to have a waste system which makes it as easy for people to reduce, re-use, compost and recycle their waste. We therefore welcome this report and its recommendation for the council to produce a new waste strategy in consultation with the people of Birmingham.
"However, Birmingham City Council needs to ensure that this process is carried out properly. Producing a procurement plan and making a statement on the future of Tyseley, before any new strategy is in place, is tackling the problem the wrong way round.
"Also, as the incinerator may prove to be a very problematic "solution" compared to other ways of recovering the value of wastes, it is imperative to audit the facility before the development of the strategy and decisions are made on procurement."
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