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Eunomia stands by surplus infrastructure prediction

Eunomia’s latest review of waste sector infrastructure has reinforced the consultancy’s previous position that planned capacity in the UK during the next 15 years will exceed that needed to process the expected level of residual waste.

The ninth issue of the Residual Waste Infrastructure Review said that overcapacity is even more likely with the higher levels of recycling envisaged in the European Commission’s circular economy proposals.

In previous issues, the researchers included a percentage of schemes which had been agreed but not secured financial backing - this element has now been dropped.

The annual capacity of facilities either currently operational, being built or having reached financial close (and expected to be operational by 2020-21) is calculated as being able to meet demand of 23.1 million tonnes per annum (tpa).

It points out that this exceeds the 22.7m tpa of residual waste expected, with anticipated waste exports accounted for in the total.

The report also looks to 2030 with an alternative scenario based on different recycling assumptions and an expectation that waste exports will continue around 2020 levels.

But by excluding exports for both, the first infrastructure scenario, which uses higher recycling expectations for household, commercial and industrial waste, shows supply meeting demand by 2025. The second, with weaker recycling levels, shows capacity slightly below demand by 2030.

The authors have also reviewed assessments of treatment capacity and arisings in the past 30 months from Biffa, the Green Investment Bank, Suez and Ricardo, all of which disagree with Eunomia’s position by insisting there will be additional investment in UK residual waste treatment infrastructure. This is the first all the reports have been systematically appraised together.

Lead author Adam Baddeley said: “When you focus on the overall conclusions of the reports, they appear consistent with one another, and Eunomia looks like the odd one out. However, breaking them down and looking separately at their estimates of capacity and arisings produces a rather different picture.”

Eunomia’s predictions

Eunomia chart2

Eunomia chart2

What we have now: Eunomia’s summary

Currently, the UK has around 24.5 million tpa of residual waste treatment capacity either ‘operating’, ‘under construction’, or which is ‘committed’, i.e. has reached financial close:

  • 47 dedicated incineration facilities
  • 14 gasification facilities
  • 36 pre-treatment facilities (using either mechanical-biological treatment or autoclave technologies)
  • 19 Industrial Emissions Directive-compliant biomass facilities
  • 8 cement kilns processing solid recovered fuels

Additionally, 14.9 million tpa of waste treatment capacity has been granted planning consent; planning consent is being sought for a further 1.8 million tpa of waste treatment capacity; and a further 100 ktpa of residual waste treatment capacity is in appeal following refusal of planning permission or is subject to judicial review.

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