A decade ago, a serious problem confronted Kent County Council. Regular recycling just didn't occur in many households, and the usual option for disposing of business and household waste was landfill. Kent's million and a half residents produce around eight hundred thousand tonnes of domestic waste each and every year, and with the cost of disposing of this huge volume sitting at over £50,000,000 it's a serious problem.
It was against this background that we made the decision to enter into a twenty five year contract with Kent Enviropower Limited to buy 320,000 tonnes a year of capacity at their new SWERF - Solid Waste to Energy Recycling Facility - at Allington Quarry in Maidstone.
The agreement looked set to provide a real solution to a large proportion of Kent's waste disposal problems. But alas, things are rarely that simple. You see, the Allington SWERF has been dogged by technical problems, and much of the waste we expected to be able to recycle through this facility has still ended up in landfill.
But the most unpredictable element is the price of recycled waste. In the decade since we agreed the Kent Enviropower (KEP) deal, the value of some elements of recycled waste has doubled - yet the KEP agreement doesn't allow us to share in the profits generated by selling on these products.
That's the changing face of waste - who could have predicted a decade ago that what seemed like a potential saving, would end up costing us money.