Infrastructure for business waste

2 April 2012

Business waste management infrastructure in London and South East England – overcoming barriers and maximising opportunities?

Rachael Riding, Sarahjane Widdowson and Adam Read from AEA look at the issues involved and reveal details of a forthcoming series of workshops.

Public perception? Planning delays? Feedstock uncertainty? Lack of Finance? What would you and your organisation perceive to be the key barriers to developing business waste management infrastructure in London and the South East?

These are questions AEA has been addressing in partnership with the Environment Agency as part of the European Pathway to Zero Waste (EPOW) programme, which to date has unearthed some interesting findings. The Department for Business Innovation & Skills stated recently that a key concern for the financing of waste infrastructure is ‘that lenders perceive waste projects as exhibiting significant technology and execution risk’.

Infrastructure is needed for business waste as the UK looks to move more towards zero waste
Infrastructure is needed for business waste as the UK looks to move more towards zero waste

Risks are evident in many forms, from planning consent and licensing risks through to community campaigns and uncertainties concerning the feedstock supply. Addressing these risks is critical if new infrastructure is to be delivered in time for 2020.

In terms of public perception, public attitudes to the development of new facilities was cited by 65% of waste professionals as a reason for the current shortfall in waste treatment infrastructure in the UK (CIWM Great Waste Survey 2011). With all the uncertainty surrounding the national planning system, the continuing debate about local vs regional planning, Localism and the continuing rise of local campaign groups, this will remain a major barrier to new waste infrastructure development in the SE for some time to come.


Planning barriers are well known and are multi-faceted, including the planning process itself, lack of appropriate data, unsuitable locations, limited land availability, local decision-making and policy decisions favouring certain sites and technologies. The Environmental Services Association (ESA) estimates that most waste management facilities take about 2.5 years to go through the planning process, at a typical cost of up to £500,000. This is an undoubted barrier to all but the largest of waste management operators when considering new merchant facilities. The uncertainty about securing planning consent, and the costs incurred remain a significant barrier to new waste infrastructure in the South East.

Given the current economic climate the key barrier being quoted by developers and operators alike is project financing. Merchant facilities cost a great deal prior to any waste coming on site, in terms of site investigation, remediation, engineering, build and commissioning. Securing finance from banks and investors is harder now than ever before, and this is halting progress for many planned facilities.

While planning and financing are often cited as the two biggest barriers to infrastructure development, the reality is that a number of barriers and their interactions need to be understood and addressed to ensure that necessary business waste infrastructure supply can meet demand in the near future. Feedstock quality, land availability, local politics and technology track record have all been cited as keen barriers to infrastructure delivery. This is particularly pertinent with 2020 and EU Landfill Directive targets just around the corner.

The Environment Agency and WRAP want to understand the viewpoints and experiences of those that have successfully delivered waste infrastructure, and those that are trying to develop similar infrastructure. They are also interested in hearing from stakeholders about the decision making process concerning new business waste infrastructure. If you have struggled to get financing, planning or permitting for proposed business waste infrastructure in the recent past we are keen to hear from you, so we can learn lessons, and inform future policy decisions.


From 1 May until 5 July 2012 there will be 16 facilitated workshops hosted across the London and South East region, where you will have a  chance to reflect on the AEA work completed to date and influence the final reports prepared for WRAP and the Environment Agency.

About AEA

AEA has a waste management and resource efficiency team of over 70 specialist consultants, working with local authorities and their contractors in designing and delivering effective waste management solutions. AEA is currently working closely with WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland on a number of public sector waste reviews and procurement support projects.

We are keen to hear from planners, representatives of the investment community, waste management contractors, local authority officers, policy makers (government and sub-regional) and representatives of waste producers at these events. Thirteen of these half day meetings will be hosted at major waste processing facilities in the region making this a great opportunity to get out of the office and see a newly built EfW, AD, or MRF.


For a full list of dates and to register interest, visit: where you will find an initial draft of the study report, and an Executive Summary highlighting the key debates identified to date. You will also be able to register to attend one of the workshops.

If you would like to discuss the dates, venues or project then email AEA at or tel: 0870 190 5586.