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Industry divided over worth of energy from waste

Industry experts at a conference have given conflicting accounts about the future role of energy from waste (EfW) in Government policy.

Speakers at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum seminar ‘The future of UK waste policy’ were divided in their views on the role for the technology in future waste policy.

Waste Watch research and policy programme manager Claudia Kuss-Tenzer said: “From the disposal perspective, we very much support the landfill tax. But we feel extending that to a general disposal tax at some point in the future would be the ideal scenario because it incentivises waste prevention to a much greater degree. That would be something we’d like to see.”

Knowaste chief executive Roy Brown also cautioned against the use of EfW technology. He said: “One of the reasons we are here is because incineration is not the panacea as a disposal option. Although it clearly has its place, with respect to our waste stream, it is a terrible solution. It takes far more energy to burn absorbent hygiene products than any energy you get.”

But other speakers suggested that there was a place for the technology.

Confederation of British Industry environment policy adviser Hayley Conboy said: “Ultimately, [CBI members] want to commit to reducing business waste in the first instance and sticking to the hierarchy in re-using and recycling. But in line with the tax escalator, we cannot rely on landfill as we do for the levels we do at the moment, and why should we?

“The interest of our members is broader than waste management and landfill - it’s about energy, it’s about the idea that energy recovery from waste can play a broader role in our management of energy security and the plan to have a diversified energy mix for the future.”

Sheffield University waste incineration centre chairman Professor Jim Swithenbank said: “We have about 300 million tonnes of total waste and about half of that can’t be recycled conveniently, so it is important that the residues are used to generate energy.”

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