Gove urged to focus on ‘waste hierarchy’

A research firm has called on the Environment Secretary to focus on the higher stages of the waste hierarchy rather than energy from waste, as he prepares a new resource strategy.

Eunomia, which specialises in resource policy, has said that the UK is heading towards the point where there will be more energy from waste and other residual waste treatment plants than needed. It suggests that, because of this, the UK recycling rate will be pegged back to a maximum of 63 per cent.

The findings, which come from Eunomia’s twelfth Residual Waste Infrastructure Review, highlight the significant growth in residual waste treatment capacity that has taken place since the firm started tracking facility development in 2009.

It warns that along with new energy from waste plants and more construction in the pipeline, these will exceed the available quantity of residual waste in 2020/21. If all facilities were to operate at full capacity together, they would limit the UK’s recycling rate to no more than 63 per cent, it says.

The report considers two future scenarios which both show the UK reaching excess capacity in 2020/21.

Harriet Parke, senior consultant and report author, said: “Our latest report shows that the UK continues inexorably towards the point where we have more residual waste treatment capacity than we need. If facilities already in construction are built, and only these, we think the UK could still recycle some 63 per cent of waste, but if just 40 per cent of what is in planning was also built, the recycling rate could be further limited to 57 per cent.

“The new Secretary of State has signalled a renewed strategy on waste and resources: it could hardly be more timely to commit England, and the UK, to developing a resource efficient economy that focuses activity at the upper tiers of the waste hierarchy. This would help clarify to investors and developers just how tough competition for residual waste is likely to be in future, and signal a need to refocus funding and activity accordingly.”

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