UK is missing the boat on extracting value from waste, report warns

The UK is missing out on opportunities to extract greater value from its waste at home and abroad, according to a new report.

Increasing levels of RDF are being exported

Increasing levels of RDF are being exported

The report, published Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group, follows on from a six-month inquiry on the matter by former Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

It warns a lack of quality in the waste supply chain is limiting the UK’s export options and potentially holding back investment in domestic infrastructure.  The report further argues a greater drive in demand for recycled materials needs to be created within the UK marketplace.

Improved quality, the report claims, will develop economic opportunities both at home and abroad, providing jobs to the UK economy and boosting the balance of payments.

The report also highlights the urgent need for reform of the PRN/PERN system, to ensure that it never appears that export is incentivised to the detriment of the domestic market.

At a time when energy prices are front-page news, the report also investigates the export of an indigenous fuel supply – RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) and SRF (Solid Recovered Fuel) – to other EU and EFTA nations, and questions where opportunities may lie to use more of this ‘energy resource’ to the benefit of the UK.

The report makes more than 20 recommendations to central government and industry on how to build the most economically and environmentally robust system for waste and materials treatment, at home and abroad.

It also suggests that a percentage of revenue for the Government’s planned levy on plastic bags, due to come into force in England in 2015, could be used to fund a targeted communications campaigns around the area of materials capture and quality.

These recommendations are set in a framework of key findings which include:

  • Given the increasing levels of RDF/SRF being exported, the current absence of sufficient treatment capacity in the UK and the inherent energy value in the waste stream, there is a need for greater clarity on the UK policy for how such material can best serve national needs.
  • The ability of the UK to address the gap in reprocessing and thermal treatment capacity is being constrained by a lack of investment. In view of this, greater confidence should be given to the investment community through a range of fiscal measures to mitigate risk and manage growth.

Chair Caroline Spelman MP said: “The UK has made huge improvements in recent years in how it manages its waste and the sector is justifiably now seen as one of the UK’s economic and environmental ‘good news’ stories. Nevertheless, important reforms and improvements are still needed.”

The inquiry and final report was supported by the British Metals Recycling Association, Closed Loop Recycling, DS Smith Recycling and SITA UK.

Welcoming the findings of the report, BMRA director general Ian Hetherington said: “This nuanced approach to the waste export debate is refreshing as it recognises there is no single answer and that a range of different solutions are required depending on the material stream.”

Liz Gyekye



| Refuse derived fuels (RDF) | SRF


Waste & resource management
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