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Tight budgets could boost waste merchant schemes

Reduced Government funding for major waste infrastructure projects is generating “greater opportunities” for smaller merchant schemes, according to a survey.

The ‘Future of Waste: a Continuing Opportunity’ is the third report by Norton Rose looking at the issues affecting large waste infrastructure projects.

Norton Rose partner Mark Berry said in the executive summary there may be “greater scope for innovation” in the merchant sector.

The report found: “Paradoxically, the cutting short of the PFI programme has resulted in more local authorities having unclear long term residual waste disposal solutions.

“This may, in turn, lead to greater opportunities for those merchant facilities that can demonstrate they can capture all or part of the available local authority municipal solid waste stream.”

Market analyst Tolvik Consulting fed into the report which drew on telephone interviews with 60 senior executives from across the waste sector between June and September this year.

Around a third (36%) felt that securing finance was a major challenge for merchant waste schemes (those not backed by local authority contracts). A similar proportion (34%) said securing feedstock was a major challenge yet only 23% thought that securing planning was a major challenge.

Respondents were asked which 2020 waste target they thought was most likely to be met. Just 7% thought that that the target of diverting all combustible residual waste from landfill would be achieved.

The key obstacle was thought to be the lack of infrastructure capacity, given the squeezes on local authority budgets. However, the report found: “There was a view that it would not be unrealistic to assume that this could be achieved in the longer term.”

Over half of the respondents thought that the UK would meet its 50% recycling target by 2020. Although the report said there was a “widespread acknowledgement” that performance will not be consistent across all local authorities.

Respondents highlighted the need to set up the right collection infrastructure across all dwellings particularly multi-occupancy and high density types.

Meanwhile, 40% thought that the 2020 Landfill Directive target was most likely to be met out of the three targets.

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