Waste treatment plants could hit overcapacity by 2020

Britain may be building too many waste facilities as a report out today (October 28) forecasts an oversupply of residual waste treatment infrastructure by 2020 - even as early as 2015 in certain areas.

The Eunomia study Residual Waste Infrastructure Review compares the current annual capacity gap across Britain (22.3m tonnes) with a future scenario capacity gap, based on modelling.

It predicts that the initial gap will start to narrow as levels of recycling increase and as more facilities are built, to a point where there is likely to be an overcapacity of 400,000 tonnes by 2020.

The current capacity gap of 22.3m tonnes is based on 35.4m tonnes of residual waste arisings in 2009-10 and 13.1m tonnes of treatment infrastructure currently in operation or under construction.

According to Eunomia, if the 11.2m tonnes of treatment capacity that has planning consent reaches financial close and begins construction, the capacity gap will be reduced to 11.1m tonnes per annum.

Planning consent is being sought for a further 3.5m tonnes of waste treatment capacity. If this was consented and then reached financial close, the capacity gap would be reduced to 7.2m tonnes year-on-year.

Eunomia points to a number of factors that could influence the future amount of residual waste arisings. These include ambitious plans by Scotland and Wales to recycle 70% of its waste by 2020 and Defra’s Waste Review which puts significant emphasis on waste minimisation and prevention across all sectors.

The study also points out that certain regions could reach overcapacity sooner, due to limitations in the ability of waste to cost-effectively travel significant distances, along with capacity being unevenly spread across the nation.

The type of treatment capacity that was considered in the report was incineration, gasifications, mechanical-biological treatment, autoclaving, biomass (facilities compliant with the Waste Incineration Directive) and cement kilns processing solid recovered fuels.

Maxine Perella

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