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EfW firms 'need to counter' public opposition to incineration

The UK’s energy-from-waste (EfW) industry has offered to prepare best practice case studies to support the development of new energy recovery facilities and counter “ill-informed” public opinion.

The move came during discussion of Defra’s resource and waste strategy at the 2019 Energy from Waste Conference in London.

Conference chair Ian Crummack, managing director of Cobalt Energy, said the sector was becoming more significant to the UK but “we have to make the case and think how we set out that case collectively”.

He pointed out that 50 years ago, 60 or more ‘waste destructors’ dealt with residual waste and only six or so had energy capture. While they had all shut after the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, ‘incineration’ retained a difficult connotation, he said.

“Public perception has changed over the years but that concern has not gone away,” Crummack added, noting there were now more than 40 EfW plants operating or close to that point with up to 40 potentially in the pipeline.

He said the challenge now was to take on those who continued to criticise – and focus more on energy. “We have to get more bang for our buck - how can we make facilities more efficient?” he asked.

Following an address by Chris Preston, deputy director, waste and recycling at Defra on the new strategy, Crummack reminded delegates that the department had previously produced best practice case studies which had been useful in countering ill-informed opposition to EfW facilities.

Preston said Defra had no plans to repeat them but said it would consider the offer of such documents from the industry itself.

Deborah Sacks, a consultant with the Department for International Trade, said it would be helpful if more politicians “made the case for EfW” and the Environmental Services Association had a key role to play in leading the “offensive”.

Crummack said: “We must be explicit. We have to make the case [for EfW] and think how we set out our case collectively. Waste is not going away. EfW works in tandem with recycling and does not depress it but we have to explain and produce the evidence.”


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