The Eunomia consultancy has defended its estimate that the UK will reach an overcapacity of residual waste treatment facilities by 2020-21, after the Environmental Services Association (ESA) savaged the claims.
ESA chief executive Jacob Hayler said Eunomia’s Residual Waste Infrastructure Review (RWIR), published on 7 August, was “flawed” and contradicted other reports predicting an under-capacity of incinerators and other residual waste treatment facilities by 2030.
He added that Eunomia’s ”abilities to overstate available capacity and under-predict residual waste arisings are astounding”.
In response, Eunomia said it backed its conclusions with data that was “very easily verifiable”:
- The UK landfilled around 11 million tonnes of waste at the standard rate of landfill tax last year, but probably no more than nine million tonnes would be suitable or available for treatment by incineration.
- There are 4.8 million tonnes per annum (tpa) of facilities under construction or financially committed.
- To move from the current 44.3% recycling rate to the 50% municipal waste recycling target, to which the UK is already committed, means reducing residual waste by around 1.5 million tonnes per annum.
Eunomia argues that these three key figures, taken together, would close the ”capacity gap” by 2020 to 2.7 million tonnes, ”even before accounting for the likely continuation of the long-term decline in commercial and industrial residual waste.”
It said a capacity gap would occur only if waste generation increased, recycling rates did not increase, residual waste exports collapsed and “very little” of the waste treatment facilities that have received planning permission went ahead.
It added that it “could not find analysis that support figures that, as has been suggested, that there will be a shortfall of capacity of five million tonnes by 2030”.
Dominic Hogg, Eunomia chairman, said: “The exact date when UK treatment capacity will exceed the available waste is debatable, as it depends on the rate at which facilities are built and progress on recycling. But in the context of 25-year investments, it is not the relevant issue.
“The ultimate destination is clear, whether the UK gets there in 2020, as the latest RWIR projection suggests, or a couple of years either side.
“The sensible response is to indicate the long-term trajectory for UK waste and resources policy by setting ambitious targets, or implementing policies, which clearly indicate – before significant additional incineration capacity is built – the intention to reduce substantially the amount of residual waste generated in future.”
Eunomia’s report warned that an increase in the number of incineration, advanced conversion technology and mechanical biological treatment facilities would lead to a number of them going bust by 2030 as available feedstock runs out.