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EfW sector told to make its voice heard

margaret bates efw

The energy-from-waste (EfW) sector has been urged by one of its senior representatives to make its voice heard during the Government’s consultation on industrial strategy.

Margaret Bates, president of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, told a conference in London that there was “a window of opportunity” to influence policy around resource efficiency, and particularly the balance between recycling and energy recovery.

She was delivering a keynote speech on the first day of the 13th International Energy from Waste event in which she considered the EfW infrastructure capacity debate, refuse-derived fuel (RDF) exports, attitudes to waste (“householders don’t feel responsible enough”) and recycling rates.

There was, Bates said, a need for ministers to set out their policy agenda: “Defra tells me they have clear statements on landfill and on recycling targets. I have yet to see them: they are more of an indication.”

Bates acknowledged that many people at the event would be involved in exports of RDF to the continent but she thought this made no sense, particularly under the proximity principles of the Waste Directive (requiring material to be disposed of as close to the source as possible), when the UK was buying energy from its European neighbours.

“Part of Europe or not, we should as much as possible be utilising our own waste to generate our own energy. We should be utilising our own resources to support our own manufacturing, and making sure we get as much value as possible out of everything we have in our control.”

She also called for better data to frame greater evidence-based policy-making. 

A question from the floor raised the debate between the quality and quantity of recycled materials. Bates said EfW had its place in the resource management mix because there was little point in using water, energy and money to recycle materials no-one wanted.

“One of the things missing in the circular economy debate, which is meant to be holistic, is that we don’t have that holistic picture. We should not be putting stuff on the market where we don’t have a sensible end-of-life solution for it.

“If the sensible solution is energy recovery, that’s fine by me, but let’s state that upfront – let’s not pretend it will be recycled. We need to revisit that whole quality versus quantity debate, and make some sensible and pragmatic decisions.”

In urging delegates to respond to the Government’s consultation on industrial strategy, she said: “We’ve never had the level of interest in waste at the moment, whether it be in the news, the high street or in government departments. 

“We need to make sure we utilise that window of opportunity to make sure our voices are heard.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • EFW is the most expensive option in the final treatment of wastes and it destroys any potential further use of the collected resources.

    The issue is that there is this notion that the Public thinks that this is the correct way to go forward when they are not told the real facts. Thus the issue has to be re-directed by you in the waste industry to say there are cheaper ways than burning which will turn the residues to a more beneficial end product which has a lower capital cost (a quarter of these EFW/ATT systems and which will produce products - fuels for example - which when sold will offer huge financial benefits to the Public which will off-set their costs in such a way that they will (as they always have) render long term projects in the industry a nonsense. A typical system that would convert a 400,000 residual waste costing €130 million to build will generate €110+ Million (£95+ Million) in revenue within four years of full commissioning thus delivering a total financial turn-around for the Council Tax Payer to pay off the programme and even take on the issues of having a zero gate fee from the first day of commissioning.

    Instead of trying to justify the system as it stands move outside the box and rethink the system. China and now India is moving this way and so should Europe.

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