AD sector isn’t selling itself enough to capture municipal waste market

The anaerobic digestion (AD) industry must do more to sell the business case for the technology if it wants to encourage councils to choose AD as a waste treatment solution over other disposal options, a leading industry figure has said.

According to Dr David Greenfield, director for waste and resources at iESE, local authorities tend to take the least risky option when planning their waste treatment strategies. This means they favour proven technologies where information is widely available.

With the local government sector facing deep cuts, an increasing number of waste authorities are forging partnerships to manage their waste, but a more proactive AD industry is needed to sell the benefits to councils, said Greenfield.

“What we’ve seen over the last five years is that partnership working between different tiers of local government is now becoming the norm because the financial constraints are so harsh that councils can’t do things on their own,” he said.

“Now that they are starting to work together, they need a lot more support to understand the benefits and the practicalities of delivering AD and biogas treatment.”

Speaking at the Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association’s annual conference in Birmingham this week (July 3), Greenfield explained that local government handled around 27 million tonnes of waste materials each year.

He said that the diverse range of materials generated by households presented a “complex, logistical nightmare in many cases” and that councils tended to base their treatment solution decisions on the nature of materials collected from the household.

“A compositional analysis of what the householder is throwing away is absolutely critical to making that decision,” he pointed out. “Local authorities have to really understand what we can capture and what we can use to give value back to the taxpayer.”

Greenfield explained that the relationship between the waste disposal and waste collection authorities was critical to waste management, but that it wasn’t always clear which authority was responsible for delivering the services to the public.

“We’re talking about a very complex way of working between different partners,” he noted.

He warned delegates that there was a lack of knowledge among some local authorities about the best treatment solutions for certain materials and this affected how they planned their waste strategies.

“What happens when we manage to reduce the amount of food waste generated by 50% in the next 20 years and the local authority has invested millions of pounds in a facility and they are then going, ‘have we got enough or the correct feedstock for it’?” he said.

“These are the type of questions local authorities consider when they are planning their strategies and in the main they will take the most proven option.”

Nick Warburton

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