Veolia calls for waste planning to be fast-tracked

The UK needs to speed up its planning process to make the deliverability of waste infrastructure faster and more efficient, according to an industry expert.

Veolia’s executive director of external affairs Robert Hunt says that planning is still a big issue for waste facilities. Speaking at keynote seminar in Westminster this week, he said it was a question of having a planning system that rolled out a waste strategy.

“I don’t buy the view that Britain’s got enough waste infrastructure or that we will ever have sufficient waste infrastructure,” he argued.

Hunt told delegates that PFI/PPP had been the “major show in town in regards to infrastructure” over the past 10-12 years, but that this had obscured the “elephant in the room” – waste arisings from the commercial and industrial sector.

“I think we recognise that we are in the sunset period for the big public procurements. A lot of the large waste authorities have procured their waste infrastructure,” he said.

“The hidden issue is for every tonne of municipal waste, there are probably two-three tonnes of commercial waste. That has conveniently gone to landfill but that isn’t an option anymore, so infrastructure has got to be put in place to cope with that.”

Hunt said that the larger corporations already recognised the importance of recovering value from waste and that it was the small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that most needed support with waste infrastructure.

He added that technological solutions were going to be important in the future. But he stressed that no one technology suited all waste. Whatever solution was chosen had to be robust, deliver what it said on the tin and be tailored to the material that it proposed to deal with.

Hunt talked about the drive towards zero waste and clarified that it meant treating waste as a resource and applying the hierarchy so that anything that couldn’t be prevented, reduced, reused or recycled was recovered.

“To the extent that you can’t reuse or recycle something, it’s important to recover as much value from the end product and that’s where sustainability and carbon capture are very important,” he told delegates.

Hunt also predicted that waste arisings would increase when the economy recovered.

“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “You can only see the tonnages that we pick up in the city of Westminster that that is a key barometer of economic growth and activity in the UK.”

Nick Warburton

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