Resource minister Rory Stewart has praised a new trade deal between the UK and the Netherlands to transfer incinerator bottom ash (IBA), and indicated that IBA could eventually be included in national recycling figures.
The voluntary agreement, called the North Sea Resources Roundabout (NSRR), will see IBA shipped to the Netherlands, where more sophisticated facilities will be used to extract precious metals.
In return, manure from Dutch farms will be sent to Northumberland, where it will be processed into fertiliser.
Stewart said at the European committee discussion in Parliament on 7 March that the deal could mark a “revolutionary change” towards a “natural capital approach”, helping to create value for secondary products extracted from IBA.
The deal means that UK waste company Ballast Phoenix will export IBA more easily to the Netherlands, where Dutch company Inashco will use its specialist technology to extract aluminum, lead, zinc, silver and gold.
Representatives from government and industry from participating countries, including Stewart, will work to remove more obstacles blocking shipments as part of the deal.
One of these, Stewart said, involved working with the Dutch on the issue of chemicals in plastics.
If we could have a harmonised recycling system in London, local councils could save between £19m and £20m a year
IBA is not currently included in European recycling figures but, at the discussion, Stewart said there would be “a good circular economy (CE) argument” for doing so.
He said he had asked officials to examine the issue more closely in recent weeks, adding that the deal with Holland “could make a significant contribution to our recycling targets” if it were included.
The NSRR green deal has been signed by ministers, industry associations and NGO’s from the UK, Netherlands and France. It will continue for five years during which time a maximum of 10 material flows will be investigated.
Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “The NSRR initiative has the potential to unlock barriers that hamper the flow of secondary resources across Europe without endangering the environment.
”With the prospect of encouraging investment in a more CE in Europe and generating a good spirit of partnership across borders, we warmly welcome it and congratulate the Dutch Government on taking this important initiative so far so quickly.”
Labour shadow resource minister Alex Cunningham (pictured) pushed Stewart on how the UK’s drive to improve recycling rates could be achieved while many local authorities lack the money to support such a drive.
Stewart responded by saying he believed that his work with WRAP to promote more standardised recycling schemes would save councils money.
“Our initial work in London has led us to believe that if we could have a harmonised recycling system in London, councils could save between £19m and £20m a year.
“Furthermore, if we are sufficiently imaginative and reach out to the industry by getting the economies of scale, we should be able to drop the charges imposed by companies, who should be able to use a standard fleet to collect waste.”