Biological treatment of waste set for biggest growth in waste industry

Driven by European Union legislation - particularly the Landfill Directive - the waste management industry in Europe is set for an upward trend in revenue growth, with sales expected to reach nearly US$38 billion (€38.5 billion) by 2009, according to a new report. The biggest growth area is expected to be biological treatment.

Until now, growth in the European municipal waste management services market has been knocked by the high use of the low-cost option of landfill for waste disposal, reports the international market research company, Frost and Sullivan. However, rising investment in new technology and increasing pre-treatment of waste means that sales will rise from US$31.62 billion (€32.14 billion) this year to US$37.87 billion in 2009, predicts the organisation.

Whilst the European Landfill Directive is only slowly being transposed into law, governments are keen to be seen as having ‘green’ credentials, and are already reviewing the alternatives. These include pre-treatment options such as sorting and separation, thermal treatment and biological treatment, which are more expensive than landfill, offering an increased revenue potential to the waste management industry, says Frost and Sullivan.

Within the industry as a whole, the municipal waste collection services market is the largest sector in Frost and Sullivan’s study, with rising waste volumes and the demand for separate collection services increasing the value of the market from US$16.10 billion in 1999 to an expected value of US$18.96 billion by 2009.

“Thermal treatment will reinforce its position as the second most valuable sector, although the greatest progress is forecast in the smallest sector, biological treatment, whose share of the market will rise by nearly 50%,” says the study’s report. “Such developments will have an adverse effect on the share of the market held by collection services. The shift away from landfill will reduce its profile. However, this decline is likely to be counteracted by rising gate fees.”

“Mounting pressures on those charged with responsibility for waste management, essentially municipalities, is resulting in a greater need for professionalism from waste contractors and the ability to offer a one-stop-shop for municipalities,” said John Raspin, Research Manager at Frost and Sullivan. “Increasingly, integrated waste services are being sought with contractors expected to be able to provide complete waste solutions.”

Use of centralised facilities for waste processing and treatment by municipalities is increasing “Such companies typically are able to offer a complete range of waste services in addition to having expertise in more specialist sectors such as incineration,” said Raspin.

Currently, the biggest companies are French contractors Sita and Onyx, together accounting for 18.5% of the market. They operate internationally, but are also able to offer bespoke specialist services if required.

However, regional and local private sector companies, as well as local authority-owned organisations, are at the other end of the waste management industry spectrum, and are being increasingly forced into specific sectors as they are unable to offer the breadth of services offered by their larger competitors, says Frost and Sullivan.

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