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Venturing in when the banks will not

It’s a constant complaint in our industry that good investment is at best challenging and at worst downright impossible to secure. So it was gladdening to hear this week that two major funds for the waste and resource sector had been drawn on to the full and a new one is on its way.

This is welcome when traditional lending agencies, particularly the banks, are nervous with the general election only three months off. A ministerial visit to the pioneering Birmingham BioPower project celebrated the first gasification development to receive support from the Green Investment Bank, the funding agency set up by the Government because it was so tough for sector businesses to secure decent financial backing.

That first fund - UK Waste Resources and Energy Investments (UKWREI) - was GIB’s first investment in 2012. Its £50m tranche was supplemented by a welcome £230m from the private sector.

UKWREI has been managed by the Foresight Group which has had the benefit of coming at the sector from the riskier world of venture capital rather than senior debt.

With both UKWREI and Foresight’s existing £60.6m Environmental Fund likely to be fully subscribed this quarter, the new £50m Resource and Waste fund is well timed. It has a new target: smaller, innovative schemes such as on-farm anaerobic digestion plants with which, again, high street banks are uncomfortable because it is so difficult to guarantees factors such as consistent feedstock over lengthy periods.

They won’t be such obvious candidates for ministerial photo opportunities but it is good to see the spectrum of schemes that will be supported has widened.

Now, over to Brussels and the “will they, won’t they” question of European Commission support for the circular economy when the waste package is revamped later in the year (perhaps!).

The most recent pronouncement from the new director general for environment Karl Falkenberg was that his team will look at how to design and manufacture products that will “better support recycling efforts.” He said he wanted to put forward legislative proposals that were capable of being implemented effectively by all 28 member states of the EU.

Whatever else such an accommodation means, it does not suggest they can possibly be “more ambitious” than the doomed ones.

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