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Lack of certainty on EfW policy hampers investment

Paul Taylor

A roundtable on energy-from-waste (EfW) hosted by MRW provided an opportunity to discuss potential solutions to some of the biggest issues faced by the UK’s waste management sector – both now and post-Brexit. What has become abundantly clear is that the UK does not currently have in place working, proven technology that would be able to deal with residual waste efficiently.

However, there could be a ready-made solution staring us in the face, and that is EfW. And there was a consensus in the room that EfW has a crucial role to play when it comes to the management of residual waste in the UK.

There are two clear reasons why. First, EfW is a cost-effective, scientific and innovative treatment which has the potential to reduce the UK’s residual waste treatment capacity gap significantly. Second, diverting residual waste to EfW means that less ends up in landfill. While recycling and reuse will continue to be vitally important, we do need a better plan for managing the waste that is left over. In doing so, we not only create a utility out of the waste but we can also boost the UK’s resource productivity.

The discussion also addressed another of the major problems that the waste management industry currently faces. Before we can truly address the capacity gap and the bigger picture, we need to get to grips with the simple changes that can be made to allow the sector to plan for the future accurately.

There is a general consensus that a capacity gap exists, but we don’t actually know how large this gap is. So it is important that we have clarity of definitions and data quality in waste measurement so that we can actually realise what residual waste we have to deal with, so as to address it head on. The current methodology does not paint an accurate picture. So it is my belief that the Government must introduce carbon-based waste targets which express global warming potential using CO2 metrics to allow for a truthful assessment of our successes and failings in the sector.

The main driver of this discussion is the lack of certainly when it comes to the future of waste policy. Without this certainty, our waste management infrastructure will not receive the investment that it urgently needs, so we can reduce our reliance on external markets to help manage our waste and deliver a system which is fit-for-purpose – particularly in a post-Brexit world.

Paul Taylor is chief executive at FCC Environment

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