UK “Sleepwalking” Into Waste Treatment Capacity Crisis – ESA

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), has issued a stark warning following the release of a new Eunomia report, labelling its findings are “flawed”.

The Eunomia report, Residual waste infrastructure review issue 12, says that were all residual waste treatment facilities currently in the pipeline to operate at full capacity, together, they would limit the UK’s recycling rate to no more than 63%.

The report highlights the significant growth in residual waste treatment capacity that has taken place since the company started tracking facility development in 2009.

“Their [Eunomia’s] abilities to overstate available capacity and under-predict residual waste arisings are astounding”

The report considers two future scenarios, based on the different policy directions available to the UK government.

  • In Scenario 1, the UK continues to apply current and planned EU recycling targets, which leads to further reductions in residual waste.
  • In Scenario 2, the UK meets existing (household) recycling targets for 2020; thereafter, household recycling rates remain through to 2030, while there is a modest increase in Commercial & Industrial (C&I) recycling rates.

ESA Executive Director, Jacob Hayler, however, says the findings are “flawed” and have been “contradicted by report after report from everyone else who’s looked at our residual waste treatment needs.”

He said: “Year after year these consultants have claimed that the UK was heading for overcapacity – its earlier reports suggested that we would already have reached overcapacity today – and it is galling that they continue to repeat the message when we are crying out for more investment in our industry.

“Their abilities to overstate available capacity and under-predict residual waste arisings are astounding.

“The consensus position on waste treatment is that we will end up over five million tonnes short of energy from waste capacity by 2030. This is what the government needs to understand if it is not to sleepwalk into a capacity crisis.”

“We need to be recycling our waste, not wasting millions of pounds building yet more incinerators that will be redundant in a circular economy.”

According to Shlomo Dowen, national coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network, however, says the report “understates” the problem.

“Most reports on residual waste treatment capacity are commissioned by companies with a financial stake in investment in new waste incineration capacity, whereas Eunomia’s reports are more independent.

“Eunomia’s latest report confirms that we will soon have more incineration capacity than residual waste. However, this understates the problem because much of what is currently described as ‘residual waste’ can actually be recycled or composted.

“We already have more incineration capacity than we will have genuinely residual waste to burn, and so have already reached ‘overcapacity’ in the UK.

“We need to be recycling our waste, not wasting millions of pounds building yet more incinerators that will be redundant in a circular economy.”


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