Councils benefit as MRFs compete for quality materials

Gate fees continue to fall at material recovery facilities (MRFs), suggesting that local authorities are now beginning to profit from the recycled materials they collect.

WRAP’s annual report into charges for waste treatment, recovery and disposal options across the UK found a “substantial” drop in MRF gate fees with the average price now at £9 per tonne, down from £15 per tonne in last year’s report.

According to WRAP’s director of market economics Steve Creed, the supply of good quality recyclate is fast becoming a revenue stream for councils.

“Many local authorities say that they are either not paying gate fees, or are receiving payment for their recovered materials,” he said.

The report also shows a significant dip in in-vessel composting (IVC) fees for garden waste, down by around £10 to £25 per tonne. IVC operators report this is being driven primarily by increased competition from other facilities, as well as from other competing treatment technologies, most notably anaerobic digestion (AD).

Overall, IVC gate fees vary substantially with a key factor being the composition of the material. Food waste mixed with garden waste and card attracts a higher fee (average £55 per tonne), followed by food waste (average £49 per tonne) and mixed food & garden waste (average £44 per tonne).

Fees have dipped slightly at AD sites, the median gate fee of £41 per tonne down from £43 per tonne in the previous year. Operators of AD facilities cited direct competition for feed stocks, energy prices, and broader economic pressures as factors likely to influence future prices.

Meanwhile average gate fees at incineration plants stand at around £65 per tonne, but vary widely depending on how old the facility is. The study also examined mechanical biological treatment (MBT) sites, but stipulated that the average £79 fee quoted should be interpreted with caution due to the wide range of treatment processes which are labelled as MBT.

The high fee attached to MBT takes into account costs associated with the disposal of process residues, including low quality residues which may have to be landfilled, fuel/SRF and revenues from the sale of recovered materials.

Maxine Perella

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