Secret talks have been held between three Midland authorities to develop one of the country's largest waste incinerators in the region.
Warwickshire, Solihull and Coventry councils have held confidential meetings to look at joining their waste departments and invest in facilities to deal with household refuse, according to papers leaked to The Birmingham Post.
The plans include a massive energy-from-waste facility to deal with rubbish that is not recycled.
Warwickshire councillor Martin Heatley (Con Nuneaton Whitestone), chair of the Warwickshire Waste Part-nership, said the county was still committed to plans for its own furnace but confirmed a "sub-regional" incinerator had also been proposed.
He said: "There is no doubt that it would make sense to have joined facilities with other authorities.
"It therefore follows that - at both the elected member level and officer level - there has been, over the last few years, discussions on joined facilities.
"One would have thought that if a sub-regional agreement was reached, any incinerator would also be sub-regional."
Tough targets on the amount of waste counties are allowed to throw into landfill means Warwickshire has been forced to look for new ways to deal with rubbish or face hefty fines.
Although it aims to recycle up to 45 per cent of its household waste by 2010, it plans to dispose of the rest using an incinerator.
In the short term, a tie-up with Coventry and Solihull - which have met targets by using Coventry's Bar Road incinerator - would mean Warwickshire could avoid fines by buying 'landfill credits' from the other authorities.
In the longer term, the coalition could help the authorities attract money from the Government's Private Finance Initiative to build a larger incinerator.
Coventry councillor Kevin Foster (Con Cheylesmore) confirmed the authorities had entered into discussions but that they were still in the early stages.
He said: "I don't want to go into details at the moment. We are aware that Warwickshire have a clear issue with landfill and we are keen to work together and assist them and reduce the amount of landfill that they use.
"The Coventry incinerator is now about 30 years old so we do have to start looking at what we do with it."
The current incinerator at Coventry processes 230,000 tonnes of waste a year from Coventry and Solihull, as well as small amounts from Warwickshire.
A plant designed to take rubbish from all three authorities would need to process about 450,000 tonnes a year, making it the third-largest incinerator in the UK.
Any joint arrangements would also allow the three authorities to team up on recycling projects. The agenda suggests that any composting and recycling plants would be located in Warwickshire.
Environmental groups have hit out at the plans. "We would not support any plans for an incinerator," said Chris Crean, of Friends of the Earth.
"If the authorities are intending to recycle paper, card, plastic, cans and food waste, what else is there left to burn? It is the refuse-niks that can't be bothered to recycle that will be providing the waste."
Syed Ahmed, head of research at the combined Heat and Power Association, said a large incinerator rode against a tide of political opinion.
"For a start, if you have a fuel it seems nonsensical not to use the heat produced from burning it," he said.
"In the light of the Stern Review on climate change, we need to make our power systems more efficient and it is on the Government agenda to look at distributed energy.
"If the plant is very big it will produce a lot of heat that needs to be used and unless you have got a big industry or community next door it would be difficult."