Speaking at the Energy Solutions show in London earlier today, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s (CIWM) chief executive Steve Lee said that the country is doing a good job in how it manages its waste.

“The popular press like to call us the ‘dirty man of Europe’, but that’s absolutely not true,” he told delegates. “The amount of energy we are recovering from waste in the UK and right across the EU is starting to grow and grow quickly.”

Lee pointed to statistics from 2009 that showed that 11% of the UK’s municipal waste is recovered as energy and argued that by now this figure would be much higher.

However, he stressed that the UK was “chasing the pack” compared to some other European countries because of its “hefty landfill habit”.

“While we will help you to recycle your socks off, there is a limit to what we can achieve through recycling. Waste prevention will change the total quantum, the style and the makeup of the materials we are left managing,” he said.

According to Lee, because the UK waste management industry is still relatively immature, one of the big games going forward will be “sucking more energy back out from our residual waste”.

The incentives for energy-from-waste were huge, he argued, pointing to the uncertainties over the price of crude oil up to 2030.

“The economics of energy recovery from waste will really be driving the development of this sector in this country over the next few years. It is worth around £6bn now in the UK and in 10 years it will be worth around £30bn … it is meteoric growth.”

He argued that after waste prevention and recycling, getting energy out of the remainder that isn’t sent to landfill will be “the story of energy from waste in this country in the next five years”.

“Curiously other parts of Europe now are relatively mature in terms of energy from waste but the UK is immature and we are probably the biggest and fastest growing market in the EU,” he added.

Conor McGlone

Live from Energy Solutions at Kensington Olympia

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