The UK must invest up to £25bn in new waste treatment plants by 2025 to divert residual waste from landfill, Sita UK has said in a new report on infrastructure capacity.
In the study Mind the Gap (file right), the waste management company claimed that, without new investment, there will be not enough capacity in the UK to deal with residual waste.
This will result in waste being landfilled or used as refuse derived fuel in other countries.
Sita said a lack of data, particularly for commercial and industrial waste, was hindering investment in the sector.
Using statistics that it compiled from its own operations, the company estimated that the forecasted infrastructure gap will narrow from 17.8 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.7 million tonnes in 2025.
But this will be mainly due to the volume of residual waste dropping against the proportion of materials that have been recycled and waste that have been prevented.
David Palmer-Jones, chief executive at Sita, said: “As a front-line operator, we have looked hard at the data we collect and shared our forecasts for residual waste generation over the next ten years and the additional treatment capacity the UK will need if a circular economy is to become a reality.”
Sita made five recommendations to prevent an infrastructure shortfall:
- Improve data capture of industrial and commercial waste by adopting a generic system across industry;
- Introduce stronger incentives and policies to further increase and maintain higher recycling rates;
- Government should issue guidance on the best collection techniques to minimise contamination of recyclate streams;
- Integrate energy recovery from waste into UK energy planning to encourage more domestic use of energy-rich waste derived fuels;
- Incentivise the use of heat produced in energy recovery from waste.
The study reignited the debate on whether the UK has sufficient capacity to treat residual waste.
In contrast, another study published by consultancy Eunomia in June concluded that in 2020 there would be potentially some 12 million tonnes capacity in excess as a result of new facilities coming online.
Veolia Executive vice-president UK and Northern Europe Estelle Brachlianoff told MRW Veolia was also preparing its own study on infrastructure capacity, which was due to be published at the end of last year. A spokesperson said the project was still underway.