UK at risk of over-investing in waste infrastructure

The UK is in danger of building too many waste treatment plants and could reach over-capacity by 2015, new research warns.

A study from Eunomia Research & Consulting claims that if all of the facilities which have been granted planning consent are built and if waste arisings remain flat, then the country will have 5m tonnes more capacity than it requires.

The situation will be exacerbated if any plants which are currently in planning or unannounced are also built, or if waste arisings continue to fall, as they have for the past five years.

Eunomia's updated bi-annual review of residual waste treatment capacity shows that nationally there is a treatment 'capacity gap' of 13m tonnes which has to be landfilled.

This is based on current residual waste arisings of 28m tonnes, with 15m tonnes treatment capacity either operational or under construction.

However, with a further 18m tonnes of capacity already consented and another 4m tonnes seeking consent, the UK appears on course to have excess treatment capacity.

If the country reaches over-capacity in 2015 it could follow the fate of other European countries like the Netherlands and Germany where plants are already being mothballed due to feedstock shortages.

One of the report's authors Dr Dominic Hogg, director of Eunomia, said that the risks outlined were very real despite the industry crying out for more treatment capacity.

"The industry continues to tell us that the planning system is preventing us from achieving high-levels of landfill diversion. The facts however tell a different story.

"If all consented facilities are built, then we'll have far more residual waste treatment capacity than we need ... we risk ending up in the same position as is now being faced in Germany, where treatment costs are falling and so undermining the economics of recycling."

Maxine Perella


| planning | residual waste


Waste & resource management
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