The BBC television programme “Inside Out”, screened on Friday 7th March 2008, raised a number of issues around the operation of the Parc system by Premier Waste Management, the company 85% owned by Durham County Council.
Fundamentally the programme alleges that the Parc system does not work; that it has not operated in compliance with relevant regulations; that waste material is placed on landfill sites as a supposed restoration material; and that this material does not provide nutrients that would be beneficial to soil.
The programme stated several times that material was taken to the Todhills landfill site near Newfield directly from the Thornley processing plant. Material is only sanitised when it is correctly processed. It should then be composted to mature and stabilise before being put to land. Only screened material, free from plastic and the like, can be put to land for use in restoration. The Environment Agency (EA) should insist on tests on this material to prove its value as a soil substitute before it is put to landfill.
This material, when used for restoration, is likely to be counted as landfill diversion by Durham County Council in its returns to government. Premier claim that the material placed at Todhills is simply being stored there rather than being used in restoration. This can hardly stand up to real scrutiny. Premier would have to demonstrate they had permission from the EA for this operation. This is placing waste without any environmental protection – containment, leachate and gas collection etc. There are no circumstances where the EA would allow this.
The allegations in the “Inside Out” programme are potentially very damaging to Premier, as its future strategy for growth is based on the Parc system. In addition, it raises the possibility that the County Council has misrepresented its landfill diversion
performance to government – a very serious position for the County to be in.
Questions to be answered:
1. Can Premier demonstrate beyond doubt that the Parc system has been operating throughout operated in full compliance with all its permits?
2. Can Premier demonstrate that all material processed through Parc has been properly sanitised, matured and composted before been placed in restoration schemes?
3. Can Premier guarantee that the tonnage reported as being diverted from landfill have been properly processed?
4. The programme calls into question the integrity of the Parc process and the sustainability of its business strategy. How are Premier proposing to reassure clients on the viability of its core business proposal?
5. How can Premier be trusted to deliver a sustainable waste management solution?