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Credit crunch will force councils to abandon "unproven technologies"

The financial crisis will make local authorities reassess the waste management technologies they invest in, an industry expert has said.

Climate change consultancy AEA Technology technical director for waste management Adam Read said that the credit crunch had yet to impact on the waste management industry as it has on the retail sector where it had an immediate impact on peoples spending habits.

But he told MRW that local authorities may have to re-assess the technologies that they were due to invest in and rely on technologies that are more likely to be cost-effective and produce a stable market (for electricity rather than materials) such as anaerobic digestion and energy-from-waste (EfW) that uses combined heat and power. He said that technologies such as these that offer local and national spread and are linked to energy production rather than the resource market could prove prudent in a recession. Similarly, biological waste treatment company New Earth Solutions commercial director Peter Mills said unproven technologies such as advanced thermal treatment, autoclaving technology and gasification will struggle to get funding.

Read explained: Local authorities will have to focus their choices more around economics than ever before it wont just be about cheapest price it will be about guaranteed markets and income.

With a recession looming over the next 12 months and beyond, local authorities will also have to make very stark financial decisions about the whole lifecycle cost of their solutions.
Read said that banks are becoming more risk averse and may in the coming years only fund technologies such as EFW which have been tried and tested over more novel technologies. He said that this could stifle innovation on the UK market and undermine many of the residual waste treatment tenders currently going through the system.

Future consumption patterns will have an affect on the waste industry, Read said. He added: If people stop buying ready meals and expensive bottled goods and in turn look for better value goods, they may trade their expensive risotto ready meal products for tins of beans. If this happens there may be more cans in the waste stream and local authorities could potentially be taking in thousands of cans extra per week. This will have an impact on the operation of their kerbside collections or materials recovery facility.

Mills said the credit crunch may change the municipal waste stream. He said: If we see large numbers of unemployment and more people will stay at home and will dine out less. With more people not going to work there will be more commercial and industrial waste streams. The test will be for technologies ability to adapt to these changes.

Read added: Consumption choices could also impact on processors. There could be more cans, aluminium, and paper being collected. We do not know what consumers will do they are not always rational.


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