'Super sites' are the future of UK waste management
Giant waste processing sites and regional expertise could help the UK avert the impending waste crisis as landfill must be replaced by more sustainable methods of disposal.This was the view of Dr Robin Curry of Envirocentre as he spoke to a gathering of waste managers in London this week on the Sustainable Transport Resources and Waste (STRAW) report.
Speaking at a networking event organized by London Remade, Dr Curry said that solutions had to be found to the problem presented by the ever-growing mountain of waste produced by the UK and the ever-shrinking amount of landfill space remaining.
While this could mean an explosion in the number of waste management sites currently in operation, there were other options which could, and should, be looked at.
"We face a revolution as waste managers in the UK," said Dr Curry.
"We have to build ourselves a waste and recycling infrastructure from scratch and that's a huge challenge but it's also an opportunity to think strategically about the scale and location of facilities."
Dr Curry argued in favour of a relatively small number of huge 'super sites' over a widely scattered much higher number of small facilities.
He also advocated regional specialisms to avoid the unnecessary cost and effort of setting up facilities that provide and identical service in several different places.
But both of these suggestions raise questions about the transportation of waste, as less sites mean longer journeys.
"We looked at possible sites of over 50 hectares with access to motorways and access to water," he said.
"The sites with the most potential are existing coal-fired power stations. They have the scale and the inter-modal access with many already connected by waterways."
Strategic planning also offered an opportunity of mutually beneficial links between the waste sector and companies outside the sector, said Dr Curry, with, for example, facilities with a high energy demand benefiting from an on-site EfW plant which would fuel industry while disposing of residual waste.