Lorry loads of Wakefield waste ferried 115 miles to Cumbria after recycling plant 'failures'

The waste in question was converted into compost before being taken back to the Wakefield district.
The waste in question was converted into compost before being taken back to the Wakefield district.

Lorry fulls of rotten food and garden waste have been ferried more than 100 miles away from Wakefield because of a lack of available facilities locally, it's been revealed.

Government papers revealed that the council's waste contractor Renewi have had to transport thousands of tonnes of refuse all the way to Cumbria over the last year-and-a-half.

Government papers revealed that there had been multiple "failures" at Renewi's plant in South Kirkby.

Government papers revealed that there had been multiple "failures" at Renewi's plant in South Kirkby.

It follows "failures" at Renewi's waste plant in South Kirkby over the last 18 months, according to the documents, which were released by the Department for the Environment (Defra).

An industrial accident at the site in February this year, which left important machinery unusable, also contributed to the problems.

The papers, released under the Freedom of Information Act, said that 2,263 tonnes of biodegradable waste - which includes the likes of food, soil and lawn clippings - were diverted to Cumbria, 115 miles to the north west of Wakefield.

Asked about the revelations, Renewi, said that over the course of the last 18 months, 4,400 tonnes of waste had been diverted to Cumbria, but that this only accounts for a tiny proportion of all the refuse they collect across Wakefield.

The council said that taking the biodegradable waste to Cumbria meant that it did not have to go into landfill.

The council said that taking the biodegradable waste to Cumbria meant that it did not have to go into landfill.

Renewi, formerly known as Shanks took on responsibility for waste recycling in the Wakefield district in 2013 as part of a PFI deal.

Once in Cumbria, the waste was converted into compost and returned to the Wakefield district to be reused.

James Priestley, managing director of Renewi UK, said that treating biodegradable waste is "routinely handled on site at Wakefield" but that the Cumbria facility had been used as a "contingency arrangement".

He added: "Our commitment to the councils is to divert as much waste as possible away from landfill in a cost-effective and sustainable manner.

"Annually, the (South Kirkby) site handles 170,000 tonnes of waste.

"Over the 18 months in question, 4 400 tonnes of (organic) waste, or 0.03 per cent of total waste received, was diverted to Cumbria."

Wakefield Council said that two periods of "operational difficulty" this year had resulted in refuse being diverted to Cumbria.

It added that this process meant the waste did not go into landfill.

The Defra papers also said that the council had issued a number of fines to Renewi for shortcomings on their contract, and that the company had disputed some of them.

However, the exact numbers were redacted on the grounds of commercial sensitivity.

Local Democracy Reporting Service