Recycling Sector Risks “Running Out Of Steam” – Biffa

The UK’s environmental strategy is at a crossroads and it is crucial both government and industry come together to fully capitalise on a post-Brexit world.

That’s the plea from waste and resource company Biffa in a major new report entitled “The Reality Gap 2017” to be launched later this month.

Biffa claims it is vital all sides act now because the UK has the opportunity to shape its environmental direction for years to come. And the Company says it has never been so important for this aligned strategy because there are major realities that need to be accepted and confronted.

“The waste industry is more than capable of rising to these challenges and needs clear policy direction to enable the necessary capital investments to be made. At Biffa, we relish the challenge and look forward to working with industry and Government to create an integrated solution which we can all get behind.”

The report acknowledges that the UK has achieved a great deal when it comes to improving its environmental credentials – from recycling to Energy from Waste (‘EfW’). But it highlights a series of key challenges that need to be addressed if the entire waste and resource industry is to remain a productive part of the wider economy.

Firstly, recycling levels have plateaued. Levels of recycling have improved substantially over the last decade: the UK now recycles around 45% of household waste and nearly 60% of commercial and industrial waste. However, without further Government intervention through regulation or financial stimulus, the sector risks running out of steam; depriving the UK of an important economic resource as well as failing to further benefit the environment.

Secondly, the UK needs to develop an improved residual waste strategy to capitalise on EfW. Almost 14 million tonnes of waste per year are currently sent to various EfW facilities to produce sustainable energy which is sold back into the Grid. A better infrastructure is required if the nation is to more effectively convert residual waste – waste that cannot be processed in any other way – into energy.

And thirdly, the UK needs to take an honest look at Landfill and accept it still has a role to play in the waste hierarchy. There is simply no alternative to Landfill when it comes to dealing with those wastes which are non-recyclable and non-combustible, says Biffa.

Current Landfill capacity is running out and replacement sites will need to be developed if the UK is to avoid a disposal crisis in the next ten years.

Biffa CEO Ian Wakelin has called on all parties involved in the waste industry – from regulators to waste companies – to take an imaginative and collaborative approach when drawing up the UK’s strategy following our departure from the EU.

He says: “The UK has achieved a great deal in terms of improving its environmental credentials. We should be proud of this. But we are at a crossroads when it comes to the future of our environmental strategy, made all the more critical and timely by the prospect of a post-Brexit world.

“The waste industry is more than capable of rising to these challenges and needs clear policy direction to enable the necessary capital investments to be made. At Biffa, we relish the challenge and look forward to working with industry and Government to create an integrated solution which we can all get behind.”

The Reality Gap 2017 has been shared with officials from Defra and Biffa says it was well received as Government looks to gather input from across industry to develop the UK’s future waste strategy.

The report has been welcomed by Environmental Services Association Executive Director Jacob Hayler who said: “This another great example of one of our members informing and influencing the debate around the UK’s waste and resource management infrastructure needs.

“This is a critical time for the waste and recycling industry and we need to take advantage of the post-Brexit opportunity to shape our future directly and realistically. We know that Government is keen to gather this type of constructive input and industry knowledge and believe that collaborative working has to be the best way forward.”


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  1. Well said. Central Govt knows full well it needs to intervene where necessary to reinstate the impetus for increased recycling.

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