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Tomra concern at energy recovery 'fixation'

I read Dan Cooke of Viridor’s recent comment on the company’s Trident Energy Park with interest.

Investment in any form of waste infrastructure should of course be welcomed – and in this case it’s a huge investment at £223m (Vital social infrastructure is now open for business) There’s also no denying that a partnership approach to waste management will help the best results. And yes, the community of South Wales will benefit from this new plant in the future.

However, the opening of this new plant also rings a number of alarm bells for me and, I’m sure, others in the recycling industry.

Energy recovery does undoubtedly have a role to play in the UK’s waste management industry, but surely we need more investment to be directed towards material recovery for recycling first, so that it’s only the remaining untreatable waste that’s used in energy production.

Our industry’s current fixation on energy from waste as the solution for our waste really worries me.  And I’m not the only one, as Dan himself acknowledges in his comment: “While someexpress concern that energy recovery risks compromising recycling, the Welsh Government’s strategy clearly aligns enhanced recycling with renewable energy, with the Prosiect Gwyrdd contract designed around Welsh councils achieving 70%.”

Now, I’m no mathematician but even I can see that the sums simply don’t add up in this case. If the new Trident Park facility will treat 350,000 tonnes of residual waste annually, then based on the 70% recycling target, there should be over 800,000 tonnes of waste being recycled in South Wales annually. So where is all that material and where is the investment in the recycling facilities to treat this material?  

The revised EU Waste Framework Directive clearly states that recycling comes above energy recovery in the waste hierarchy and as recently as July, MEPs backed proposals for a legally binding recycling target of 70% for municipal solid waste. Investment in new facilities now needs to reflect the waste hierarchy if this ambitious 70% target is to be met.    

Steve Almond, Sales Engineer, TOMRA Sorting Recycling

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