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Circular economy ‘needs fossil fuels’

Fossil fuels, including shale gas, are necessary for the development of the recycling sector in the UK, a waste management company has said.

Remsol has produced a report that argues the country’s energy policy should reflect the importance of non-renewable sources for the reprocessing industry.

“The economic and environmental benefits that recycling brings are under threat as a result of energy policies that are heavily weighted toward decarbonising the power sector through the deployment of wind, wave and solar renewables,” it said.

The report says out that renewable electricity alone is unable to meet the energy demands of the recycling sector because such power is too variable and cannot guarantee the peak of supply necessary for some activities, for example steel production.

Renewable sources also cannot provide sufficient gas, it is argued. Domestically-produced shale gas could be used to power the glass recycling industry, which daily consumes over one million cubic metres of natural gas.

For these reasons, the report says the role of fossil fuels is “clear and ambiguous” and will remain so for the “foreseeable future”.

In addition to that, new technology to improve the storage of excess electricity from renewable sources should be developed, the report states.

Dan Byles MP

Conservative MP Dan Byles, chairman of the All Party Environment Group:

“Although it has been shown to lead to reductions in consumption, recycling waste still requires large amounts of reliable energy, available consistently, around-the-clock, every day of the year.

Much of that demand is currently met by fossil fuels like natural gas, and whether we like it or not, this is likely to be the case for decades to come, but current energy policy doesn’t always seem to reflect this.

In order to ensure the success of Britain’s emerging circular economy, we need an energy policy that better addresses the long term energy demands of this vital sector, or we risk an exodus of jobs and recycling capacity abroad.

This paper raises some important questions. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group, I welcome the focus that it rightly places on the importance of energy to the proper functioning of a circular economy, and look forward to participating in the debate that it is sure to stimulate.”

UPDATE: This article was corrected on 13 October to make clear the report came from Remsol not the All Party Environment Group which supplied Byles’ comment for the report

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