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Future landfill shortages and legislation will drive EfW investment, says waste expert

The UK waste management industry is heading for a ‘perfect storm’ of factors that will drive investment in advanced energy from waste (EfW) technologies, the advisor to the Mayor of London told Futuresource.

Ecolateral director Peter Jones explained that a ‘wonderful elision of interesting shortages’ will converge over the next two to three years, which will force waste management companies to reconsider waste as a resource, rather than an end product.

Jones said: “I call it the perfect storm – this is the idea that around 2012-2013 landfill diversion targets start hitting, the current administration indicated they might drop lax requirements on local authorities, the carbon reduction commitment bites, there’ll be 120 fewer landfills…you might have some really fundamental issues around evidential climate chaos which is the sort of thing that will drive political will to deliver this [and] we’ve got all these additional subsidies.”

Jones also commented that current financial barriers to wider EfW investment are also due to change. He explained that previous concerns over the correct placement of EfW plants and the perceived risks of the technology and feedstock which prevented banks and venture capitalists from providing the corresponding investment opportunities for EfW would soften due to the rising landfill tax.

“No bank will advance money unless all those risks are covered,” said Jones. “My take on that, is that that process is now under way.”

In order to facilitate the coming ‘perfect storm’ Jones called on waste management companies to “start with market need and then work back” by considering the demand for EfW plants ahead of traditional waste management concerns. He highlighted schools, hospitals, farms, prisons, manufacturing facilities and other large companies as potential future consumers of EfW technology.

Jones said: “Every tonne of consumption in our so called ‘developed economies’ requires around 20x by mass of those inputs, so we’re moving into an area where the whole notion of taking so-called waste resources and putting them into a geological storage vault called a ‘landfill’ is anarchic and anachronistic to say the least.”

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