3 DECEMBER 2019by Joshua Doherty at LetsRecycle.com

Essex county council has confirmed that around 200,000 tonnes-a-year of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) produced at Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s mechanical and biological treatment facility (MBT) are to be sent to landfill.

In a statement sent to letsrecycle.com last night (December 2),  the council said it has neither “reversed its plan or policy” but said the decision “may have been influenced by the part-closure of the Dutch AEB facility and a proposed tax on waste imports to the Netherlands.”

RDF from the MBT facility in Basildon will now be landfilled (Picture: UBB)

The plans emerged at a meeting of Essex county council’s cabinet last week (November 26) at which members were told the successful bidders for a tender to handle waste once existing arrangements come to an end in March 2020.


Split into four lots, the tender covers the disposal of RDF and/or mixed residual municipal solid waste (MSW) as well as contingency measures and the transfer and disposal of direct-delivered waste.

The first lot, for the disposal of RDF and/or MSW, was awarded to Enovert and will see approximately 200,000 tonnes of RDF produced at Urbaser Balfour Beatty’s MBT in Basildon landfilled at the Bellhouse Landfill in Colchester.

Previously this was being sent to the Netherlands for use at the AEB plant, which takes large amount of waste from the UK.

However, its partial closure earlier this year and the expected tax of around €30 a tonne on the import of RDF for incineration in the country has meant that landfilling became the most cost-effective measure for the council.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Essex county council has neither reversed its plans or policy. The current service orders under the existing waste disposal framework are due to expire in March 2020. The award of new service orders was the result of a mini competition and was dependent on external market conditions which may have been influenced by the part-closure of the Dutch AEB facility and proposed tax on waste imports to the Netherlands.


The AEB facility in Amsterdam is among the largest importers of waste from the UK

“Under the new service orders refuse-derived fuel from the Basildon facility will be sent to landfill as the most cost-effective option for the facility’s output. This material has undergone treatment to remove certain recyclables and reduce its biological content making it less active.”


Lot 2 of the contract covers the contingency disposal of MSW which was awarded to Veolia, Viridor and Suez. Lot 3 was for the contingency disposal of bulky waste which was awarded to Enovert, Veolia and Suez. Lot 4 was for the transfer and disposal of direct delivered waste and was awarded to James Waste Management.

The whole system disposal costs total £52.9m which includes the costs of service orders and applicable Landfill Tax, the council confirmed.

Alternative markets

At the meeting confirming the tender results, Cllr Simon Michael Walsh, cabinet member for environment and climate change at Essex, was quizzed on why the waste would have to be landfilled instead of finding alternative markets.

Cllr Walsh said the council will continue to look for other ways to treat the waste and said the council will dispose of it in a “more appropriate way” if this situation arises.


The MBT facility in Essex is at the centre of a court case between Urbaser and Essex county council regarding the plant’s performance (see letsrecycle.com story).

Residual waste generated by the county has been managed under a 25-year PFI waste treatment arrangement with Spanish-owned consortium Urbaser Balfour Beatty – UBB Waste (Essex) – in 2012, worth over £919 million across its lifespan (see letsrecycle.com story).

The contract was also signed by the unitary Southend borough council as part of the Essex Waste Partnership.