Waste infrastructure projects will need to prove themselves under market conditions and cannot rely on public sector investment, plans unveiled by the Government have indicated.
The National Infrastructure Plan 2013 sets out the UK’s infrastructure needs across a spectrum of industry sectors. A Major Infrastructure Tracking unit has been set up to analyse each sector and the pipeline of significant projects (see graph above).
Although the plan outlines a strategic and “more credible overview” of future public and private infrastructure investments, it said decisions on individual waste and energy projects “will be determined by the market”.
The plan also said that, unlike other sectors, waste can have “short-term growth impacts”, but was less likely to have a “long-term multiplier effect”.
According to the Treasury, two waste infrastructure projects in the current pipeline have achieved planning consent, 12 have been approved for consent and 20 are under construction. There are no projects at the scoping phase and no active investment programmes.
According to the plan: “The UK’s waste disposal infrastructure continues to perform at a greater standard than in 2005. The greatest transformation has been the increase in capacity to recycle and incinerate waste, which has dramatically reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill each year.”
This is underlined by a recent Defra report which said the UK had sufficient waste processing infra-structure to meet its obligations under the Landfill Directive.
But some waste sector organisations have echoed calls from the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) for a boost to waste infrastructure. An APSRG report said the UK should consider greater use of waste as a national resource rather than relying so heavily on the export of such materials.
The Environmental Services Association has called on chancellor George Osborne to provide “anything in the Autumn Statement which would help to underpin new infrastructure investment, such as new tax allowances for infrastructure”.
Remondis UK managing director David Winstanley said that exporting refuse- derived fuel was a cost-effective solution given the relative lack of infrastructure.
“If we are to meet the challenge being set by the APSRG to maximise the value from waste in the UK, there will have to be significant investment and infrastructure development,” he said.
“This can only happen if the policy and legislative framework is clear and potential financiers have confidence in the security of their investments.”