Industry unites to urge government action on waste investment

The Government has been warned that it risks "sleep walking" into a waste infrastructure shortfall unless it conducts an urgent review of its waste data and revises the investment decisions made on the back of it.

In a joint letter issued today, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Local Government Technical Advisers Group have called on Defra to confirm its commitment to the existing infrastructure programme.

Amid concerns that the UK may not be properly equipped to meet its European Landfill Directive targets in 2020, the joint signatories have called on the Government to urgently provide assurance and evidence to show that UK is still on course to meet the landfill diversion targets in seven years’ time.

In the joint call to action, they have suggested that Defra uses the release of the UK’s official annual waste data in November to start an urgent review.

Today’s letter comes a month after local authorities wrote to Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson expressing fears that the Government’s recent decision to withdraw millions of pounds of funding from three major residual waste projects featured in the National Infrastructure Plan would damage investor confidence in the waste sector.

Only last week, local authorities wrote again to the secretary of state calling on the minister to urgently review the latest statistics from Defra’s Waste Data Flow and the UK’s ability to meet its obligations under the Landfill Directive.

Emerging waste trends show that more waste is being collected by local authorities across the country, recycling rates are flattening and residual waste levels are on the rise.

Combined with a potential shortfall in the amount of waste treatment capacity that is expected to be operational by the time that the 2020 targets come into force, the Government’s decision to withdraw funding has been called “short sighted” in today’s letter.

Today’s signatories have voiced concern that the data used by the Government to make recent investment decisions is “out of date” and would leave the UK open to significant fines from the EU in the future if it fails to meet the targets.

“Today’s letter is by no means the first time that concern about future funding and provision of waste infrastructure has been flagged up,” CIWM’s chief executive Steve Lee told edie.

“Just last week, CIWM published a report on the export of waste derived fuels and the lack of UK infrastructure that exists currently to capitalise on this energy resource here in the UK.”

Lee said that other voices in the waste and resource management sector have highlighted significant challenges around the funding landscape and investor confidence, and there have been some very different views expressed publicly about future treatment capacity projections and data.

“The annual data to be released later this year will provide a clearer picture, as will CIWM’s autumn report on commercial and industrial waste capacity, and we will be urging Defra to come to the table and engage in a constructive dialogue to address these concerns,” he said.

Nick Warburton

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