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Anaerobic digestion gate fees under pressure

Two interesting and distinct trends on gate fees have emerged from WRAP’s annual Gate Fee reports.

The study, derived from statistical sampling across the waste processing sector and local authorities, provides an annual snapshot of the latest typical gate fees for benchmark technologies or alternative recovery treatments.

The key findings of the report are helpful for local authorities, providing transparency and a reference document for waste-related decisions.  For instance, the report notes that the median gate fee paid by local authorities for material recovery facility (MRF) services is £10 per tonne compared to a median MRF gate fee of £9 per tonne in the previous survey.  While this fact may be helpful, it perhaps lacks a certain contextual narrative.

The fact that WRAP have been producing this report for a number of years means that any longer-term trends can be uncovered.  Two interesting pairings emerge (graph above).

Landfill and energy from waste (post-2000 facilities) are coursing a conjoined upward trajectory, as they source the same feedstock deemed to be “unrecyclable”. The regulated increase in landfill tax has resulted in the energy-from-waste sector shadowing the costs, enjoying extra income while being perceived as having environmental appeal compared to landfill.

Meanwhile, a separate trend emerges between rivals anaerobic digestion (AD) and in-vessel composting (IVC).  Over the past few years, AD development has been dramatic as a consequence of Government support. Forty-six AD facilities licensed to accept animal by-product materials are now operational in the UK, in spite of observations from some quarters that the development in processing capacity risks outstripping available supply.

Thus, while energy from waste can potentially enjoy the uplift in fees resulting from increasing landfill tax, the AD and IVC sectors are perhaps destined to grapple for a while longer.  The game-changer could be the Government’s cooling position on AD subsidies such as the Feed-In Tariff.

The anecdotal evidence is that gate fees in the organic recycling sector remain under pressure as competition increases for a diminishing resource.  Food companies are getting cleverer at reducing their waste – which is to be applauded. However, this means that the food waste recyclers may start to go hungry before too much longer.

Andrew Gadd is business manager at Re:Sourcing UK


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