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EfW business failures ‘likely to increase’ by 2030

A Eunomia infrastructure review has warned that its projected surplus of residual waste treatment facilities by 2030 could mean businesses failing as they compete for feedstock.

The report said an increase in the number of incineration, advanced conversion technology and mechanical biological treatment facilities will limit the maximum achievable recycling rate to 63%.

But the report drew a scathing response from Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), who accused the authors of “flawed” findings.

”Their abilities to overstate available capacity and under-predict residual waste arisings are astounding,” he said. The full response is below.

Eunomia’s report found that the UK’s supply of treatment capacity will exceed the available quantity of residual waste by 2020-21.

With three planning consents for treatment facilities granted since the previous report, and nine currently at the planning application stage, the consultancy warned: “Each time a facility reaches financial close or begins construction, the likelihood of nearby facilities reaching financial close falls.”

The report also warned that the amount of available data on commercial and industrial waste “remains stubbornly poor”, and the need for better information was “increasingly urgent” because businesses could find themselves struggling to find feedstock.

Eunomia senior consultant and report author Harriet Parke said: “Our latest report shows that the UK continues inexorably towards the point where we have more residual waste treatment capacity than we need.

“If facilities already in construction are built, and only these, we think the UK could still recycle some 63% of waste. But if just 40% of what is in planning was also built, the recycling rate could be further limited to 57%.

“The new [environment] secretary of state [Michal Gove] has signalled a renewed strategy on waste and resources. It could hardly be more timely to commit England, and the UK, to developing a resource-efficient economy that focuses activity at the upper tiers of the waste hierarchy.

“This would help clarify to investors and developers just how tough competition for residual waste is likely to be in future, and signal a need to refocus funding and activity accordingly.”

ESA executive director Jacob Hayler:

”Eunomia’s findings are flawed and have been contradicted by report after report from everyone else who has looked at our residual waste treatment needs. Year after year these consultants have claimed that the UK was heading for overcapacity – its earlier reports suggested that we would already have reached overcapacity today – and it is galling that they continue to repeat the message when we are crying out for more investment in our industry.

”Their abilities to overstate available capacity and under-predict residual waste arisings are astounding. The consensus position on waste treatment is that we will end up more than five million tonnes short of energy-from-waste capacity by 2030. This is what the Government needs to understand if it is not to sleepwalk into a capacity crisis.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • Most reports on residual waste treatment capacity are commissioned by companies with a financial stake in investment in new waste incineration capacity, whereas Eunomia's reports are more independent.

    Eunomia's latest report confirms that we will soon have more incineration capacity than residual waste. However, this understates the problem because much of what is currently described as 'residual waste' can actually be recycled or composted.

    We already have more incineration capacity than we will have genuinely residual waste to burn, and so have already reached 'overcapacity' in the UK. We need to be recycling our waste, not wasting millions of pounds building yet more incinerators that will be redundant in a Circular Economy.

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  • How correct Mr S Dowen.

    Everywhere across the country we see Incineration plants we note that the costs for treatment are so high that the Council Tax Payer has to continually cough up more and more for the purposes. This is a nonsense.

    There are already propositions to hand which will take the residual waste (organic and plastics) to convert to biofuels - in the former - and a Diesel - in the latter - which can be carried out at a £Zero Treatment cost and they still make money by the truckloads.

    Eunomia is a careful Consulting Engineering firm and also has seen that this is possible.

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