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Rate payers face hikes 'to pay for waste plan'

Rate payers face increases in their bills if government proceeds with long-term waste management schemes, according to an association of recyclers.

According to the Northern Ireland Association of Independent Recyclers (NI AIR), three waste management authorities - arc21, North West Region Waste Management Group and SWaMP - are expected to award 25-year contracts worth £2.5bn to three companies.

The companies are thought to include Biffa and Shanks Waste Solutions.

NI AIR said the contracts would "lock councils into processing their waste in potentially expensive and inflexible arrangements".

Those contracts "could ultimately result in very heavy costs to be met by rate payers".

Spokesman Michael Cunningham, head of Recyco in Omagh, said its 12 members had invested in technology which could provide a cheaper, flexible and cleaner solution.

But Environment Minister Alex Attwood defended the department's approach. "Since becoming minister, I am very vigilant around the affordability and delivery of this issue, given that the commitment is for 25 years.

"I very much encourage the recycling industry to become more and more part of waste management in the north.

"Whatever figure we might achieve on recycling, we still need alternative means of waste disposal. It cannot all be done by the recycling business according to the evidence."