Local authorities should not be rushing headlong into energy recovery solutions when the real environmental benefits are in material recovery and waste prevention, says an industry expert.
Somerset Waste Partnership managing director Steve Read gave his own personal views to a seminar audience at the RWM conference on recycling and composting.
Read said: I am certainly not saying that we should not be building energy recovery facilities but there is a real risk that we could end up with too many of these, at the current rate that we are looking at it.
He said that waste arising levels were declining and had stopped growing at three per cent per year seven or eight years ago in England but waste policy has seemed a long time to latch onto that. He also said the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme target in 2013 actually might turn out to be a foothill rather than a mountain and we might not be so far off that as we thought.
Read explained that by building too many energy recovery solutions the UK may end up with a surplus.
He continued: Actually, places like Germany have seen this, where they have surplus capacity and are actually importing stuff to burn in energy recovery facilities. And it has been observed by more than one person that when you go out to procure something like that, there always seems to be this parallel with the actual cost of disposal at landfill.
And the biggest worry is that competition for this waste could result in a drift down the waste hierarchy rather than trying to keep it up where we should be looking at avoidance of recovery, material recovery or energy recovery.