The question of how the UK will achieve its waste management strategy targets (see related story) under the current planning permission system was of concern to many environmental technology (ET) firm representatives.

Calls for central government assistance in streamlining and speeding up planning permission came from all sectors, with the Environment Agency’s director of sustainable development, Chris Newton, backing up industry requests for action.

“There have been calls for a National Waste Authority,” admitted Newman, who agreed that some type of “parliamentary interference” would be necessary since “the current planning system just cannot cope.”

Newman’s personal count of what will be needed in order to meet waste reduction regulations over the next decade or so offered a stark demonstration of the issue’s urgency. Newman estimates a need for:

  • 200 small hazardous waste sites and/or incinerators
  • 22% increase in waste minimisation
  • 360% increase in waste recycling
  • 23 waste to energy plants
  • 25 composting plants

In addition to the need for streamlining planning permission in the waste management sector, there is also a need for reflection on the longer-term impact of waste policy, according to Lord Lewis.

Lewis is the former chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and is the EIC’s Honorary President. “The incinerator capacity in this country is 10 and we’re being told that we need 50 incinerators, or maybe up to 150,” said Lewis. “But building an incinerator influences the waste stream for the next 20 years and limits what else you can to with that stream for that period.”

Another area where ET firms would like to see change in funding. Using the water industry as an example, the point was made that small ET firms find it very difficult to survive in a ‘feast or famine cycle’ where there is little or no investment from water companies at the end and beginning of each five-year Asset Management Programme. Lionel Bridle, vice president of ABB and a member of the EIC’S Water Pollution Group agreed: “It would be helpful to have a rolling programme of funding.” Several ET company representatives stated that their businesses’ ability to innovate and grow would be greater if procedures used to agree investment funding were decoupled from the five-year political cycle.

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