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Audit Commission report gets mixed response from waste industry

The Audit Commissions report on waste has received a mixed response from the waste industry.

Waste processing company Global Renewables has criticised the Audit Commission for suggesting that waste incinerators are the only means by which local authorities can avoid rising landfill costs.

The Well Disposed: responding to the waste challenge report says the UK can meet European Union Landfill Directive targets to reduce the amount of waste landfilled by 2013 if the councils who have planned waste treatment facilities build them on time. But they risk missing the target if they fail to put their foot on the gas.

Global Renewables managing director said: Its a common misconception that energy-from-waste facilities are a great way to solve the problem of waste and rising energy costs. In fact, around 75% of the energy generated by these facilities is simply wasted and there is little scope for them to adapt should currently unrecyclable materials, like plastic film, suddenly become recyclable.

Waste is actually a resource stream up to 80% of what we throw away is reusable and that figure will increase as technology develops to reuse more of it. The best approach is to have a system of waste processing that can accommodate that.

The firm is currently building two mechanical biological treatment (MBT) facilities in Lancashire which will process the waste of people in the county. Singh said that the MBT plants would only take 18 months to build, as opposed to about three years for the average incinerator.

But the Audit Commission report does acknowledge that new waste disposal facilities may not secure good value for money. It says: Few councils generate enough waste alone to justify building an incinerator with energy recovery of the most efficient scale.

Long term investment decisions may be proved obsolete by adoption of more advanced technologies or by changes in regulation or public opinion.

In contrast, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) welcomed the report.  A Defra spokesman said: The Audit Commission is absolutely right that we need to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. Maximising the renewable energy that can be recovered from unavoidable waste, through incineration and other means such as anaerobic digestion, is both sensible and vital to cut landfill and build a low carbon Britain.

Local Government Association chairman Paul Bettison repeated his call for the Government to return money paid by councils in landfill tax to help speed up the process of building facilities.

He said that the Government had hit the council taxpayer with a £1.5 billion bill over the next three years by going back on its undertaking to refund money raised through landfill tax to local authorities. This is cash that could be used to build the facilities that are needed to divert waste away from landfill.

 

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