These were a busy two months, as China’s Green Fence hit recyclers, George Osborne was urged to clear up what would happen with Landfill Tax in his Budget – which has still not happened - and there were counter-claims over UK infrastructure and waste capacity.
The Government began a consultation on its waste prevention strategy – when it was finally published it was largely met with disappointment in the industry. The first indications that the UK may miss its 2020 recycling targets also emerged. Later in the year the rate was found to be flat-lining.
Two leading consultancies in the waste and resources sector are engaged in a continuing debate over UK waste capacity.
The discussion sprang from the publication of Eunomia’s third residual infrastructure report in November last year. As reported in MRW, the authors claim the UK is on track to reach overcapacity of residual treatment facilities between 2015 and 2018.
This was followed by the publication in February of a long rebuttal of the Eunomia stance by fellow consultants Ricardo-AEA who stated: “We support the views of industry experts that the UK will not suffer the predicted serious overcapacity issues being forewarned by some commentators.”
Defra’s call for evidence to help frame the Waste Prevention Programme for England has been published.
The call for evidence process explores the challenges and opportunities to waste prevention, as well as inviting views and information.
The UK increased its recycling rate faster than any other EU country for a decade, but must maintain that rate of increase in order to meet EU targets.
New data analysis from the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows Britain will achieve the legally binding target of 50% recycling of municipal waste by 2020 if the annual rate of increase recorded between 2001 and 2010 is repeated.
EEA said an annual average increase between 2010 and 2020 of just above one percentage point would be necessary for the UK to hit 50%.
Changes to tariffs under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme are to be reviewed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Biomethane and biogas are explicitly excluded from the review while all sizes of biomass technologies will be included. Even so, DECC anticipates a potential for an increase in the tariffs only for large biomass plants.
All these reviews are for the non-domestic sector; details of a domestic RHI scheme for individual households are due in the summer with schemes opening for payment from spring 2014.
China has launched a crackdown on the import of substandard recyclable materials.
UK industry figures said prices had been hit as container loads were rejected.
The policy, known as ‘Operation Green Fence’ does not involve a change in regulations, but will see existing ones enforced more rigorously for materials of all kinds.
This could lead to shipments of materials that the Chinese authorities deem unacceptable being refused entry and sent back from Hong Kong and other ports.
Councils need to “take steps into the future” in the face of budget pressures, including considering controversial monthly refuse collections, Biffa has said.
The waste management firm is urging councils to rethink waste management services.
Biffa reports that nearly all of its 40 municipal clients have made some form of cuts to recycling, refuse and cleansing services. It predicts changes to the way refuse and recycling is handled as authorities look to slash waste budgets.
Packaging recycling could be set for another volatile year according to figures for the first quarter of the year.
Continuing last year’s concerns about glass targets, the Q1 numbers show that glass recycling was down 10% on this time last year, with glass remelt figures at their lowest for three years.
According to the figures from the Environment Agency, 160,000 tonnes of glass remelt waste was accepted for UK reprocessing in the first quarter of 2013, with around 62,000 for export. The overall figure for glass was 327,000. This compares to 363,000 over the same period the previous year.
Materials recovery facilities should be regulated regardless of their size, the Environmental Services Association has said.
In its response to Defra’s consultation on draft regulations for a mandatory MRF code of practice, which closed on 26 April, the industry body said this should become a permit condition enforced by the Environment Agency.
ESA policy director Matthew Farrow said: “Defra’s proposals for implementing the code are a good starting point but need to be strengthened to ensure the code delivers on the ground.”