The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has disputed the Government’s conclusion that the UK will not need to build more energy-from-waste (EfW) plants if it meets future recycling targets.
The ESA has strongly argued for the need to build more such facilites, and has called on the Government to unlock investment by “creating a coherent, stable policy environment”.
But the resources and waste strategy has failed to give such assurances. In an annex, the strategy said that significant additional incineration or advanced conversion technology “above that already operating or planned to 2020” would not be needed.
This is based on targets of no more than 10% of municipal solid waste being landfilled along with a recycling rate of 65% by 2035.
Speaking at an MRW round table, Defra deputy head of resources and waste policy Tom Murray said: “The strategy is clear on the role of EfW. Our evidence is suggesting that, when we meet future recycling targets in 2030 and 2035, recycling will leave no capacity gap. It is about having the right amount of investment in EfW and the right amount of investment in reprocessing as well.”
In response, ESA executive director Jacob Hayler warned that, in the near term, the UK is “chronically short of treatment capacity”.
He added: “In 2035 the capacity gap in the evidence annex is 6.5 million tonnes post-meeting recycling targets. We need investment. EfW is the flexible, bankable, proven technology that will do that efficiently.
“It’s a positive thing that should have been front and centre of the strategy. We should be investing in modern, clean technology that does a great job of generating energy from residual waste.”
In a recent debate in the House of Lords, Government whip Charlotte Vere said EfW had a continued role to play but added “we do not want it to replace recycling and reuse”.
She added: “Innovation in EfW is an important area, and Defra is working with other Government departments to achieve this.
“The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has a heat networks investment project with a capital fund of £320m, and we are working to ensure that this project helps to utilise EfW as a source of heat.”
Examination of the resources and waste strategy
On 18 December, MRW hosted a round table at Portcullis House in Westminster. It was the first chance for the industry to get together to discuss Defra’s resources and waste strategy, launched on 17 December.
The event was supported by FCC, Valpak and the All Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group. It was held even before the Environment Audit Committee had had a chance to grill environment secretary Michael Gove that same day.
Around the table we had representatives from every corner of the industry – including Local Government Association environment committee chairman Martin Tett, Bywaters’ John Glover, Inpen’s Paul Vanston and Barry Sheerman MP. Defra representatives were also on hand to give vital background to the strategy.