UK GIB dismisses 'misguided investment' criticism
The UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has fired back at allegations that it has made "repeated errors" in assessing the environmental impact of its waste investments.
Dr Dominic Hogg – the CEO of environmental consultancy Eunomia – made the claims in a blog last week, entitled ‘Talking GIB-berish’.
Hogg says that 90% of the GIB’s £297m waste investment has gone to projects that are "wholly or mostly" energy-from-waste (EfW), which are "holding back progress on carbon reduction".
Hogg says the environmental benefits of EfW plants can only be understood in the context of the energy generation it will replace. As the UK’s energy mix becomes decarbonised, EfW plants become less and less beneficial.
He added that only 3% of waste treatment capacity supported by the GIB is for recycling – way below what is necessary for a transition to a more circular economy.
However the GIB has disputed these claims, arguing that its investments are constrained by commercial decisions and still benefit the environment by reducing landfill waste.
GIB waste and bioenergy managing director Chris Holmes said: “The GIB is playing an important role in supporting the UK’s move to a more circular economy. Our investments in EfW plants are preventing the worst outcome which is waste being sent to landfill.”
Holmes added that the GIB’s investment in recycling capacity was undersold by the 3% figure.
“A lot of our projects have a recycling aspect while not being ‘pure recycling facilities’," he said. "Our most recent investments for example includes a Materials Recycling Facility to recycle 20% of incoming residual household waste. We have also set up a £50m fund to invest in smaller recycling and waste treatment projects across the UK.”
Holmes said that one of the reasons for the current low level of investment in recycling was the economic constraints of the industry.
“That is a challenging subsector and difficult to make a profit. It seems every week another processor goes into administration.
“Ultimately we are custodians of taxpayer money and operate on a commercial basis: our investments have to be green, but they also have to be profitable.