Six million tonnes of waste could be ‘left without a home’ by 2030

The UK is likely to be left six million tonnes short of waste treatment capacity by 2030, according to a stark report which lays bare the "critical lack" of infrastructure to treat the nation's waste.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) warns that recycling rates are unlikely to rise much above current levels in the next dozen years. Analysis suggests that boosting rates above the expected range of 50-55% will probably cost at least £1.5bn and will require significant Government intervention.

ESA Executive Director Jacob Hayler said: “The waste and recycling industry is alarmed by the emergence of a critical lack of infrastructure to treat the nation’s waste.

He added: “We urgently need the Government to recognise the waste crisis the UK is facing and give the industry the long-term clarity it needs to invest in new energy from waste facilities.”

Waste without a home

The report warns that without action, five million UK households will see their waste sent to landfill instead of used to boost the country’s energy supply. The predicted shortage of capacity even factors in continued waste exports to the EU and the growth of currently unplanned facilities.

The ESA highlights a range of economic, social and environmental benefits of closing the forecasted six million tonne capacity gap. Around 9,000 jobs would be created in the waste and construction sectors, the organisation claims, with around £4.5bn spent in capital investment.

The extra energy-from-waste facilities would reportedly produce almost 0.5G electricity, capable of powering around 720,000 homes.

Tolvik Consulting, which has released its own analysis supporting the view that the UK is heading for serious under-capacity, insists that policy uncertainty is discoursing investment into the sector.

“This is creating the risk of a mismatch between waste tonnages and available treatment capacity, which could lead to significant quantities of waste without a home by 2030,” said Tolvik’s director Adrian Judge.

‘Disaster scenario’

Experts have previously claimed that the Government is “sleepwalking” towards an energy-from-waste capacity crisis.

According to waste management firm Suez, the UK is faced with a “potential disaster scenario” that could see a hard Brexit exacerbate a shortfall of waste treatment infrastructure over the next 10 years.

On the other hand, waste firm FCC Environment’s chief executive Paul Taylor has argued that Brexit could give the waste sector the coherent, long-term framework it desperately needs.

In September, a £38m energy-from-waste (EfW) facility in Yorkshire became the first project to receive financing from the newly formed Green Investment Group (GIG), formerly known as the Green Investment Bank.

George Ogleby

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