Experts urge government focus on waste infrastructure

The government must have “more of a focus” on infrastructure when bringing forward key waste policy changes, according to a panel of experts speaking at the Resource Infrastructure Conference in London yesterday (9 September).

(l-r) Adam Read, Suez; Jacob Hayler, ESA; Simone Aplin, Anthesis; and Tim Rotheray, Viridor

The panel, which focused on national infrastructure needs and how to plan for regionally important infrastructure, was chaired by Suez external affairs director Adam Read and made up of executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA) Jacob Hayler, director of innovation and regulation at Viridor, Tim Rotheray, and technical director at Anthesis, Simone Aplin.

Reflecting on the latest policy consultations put out by Defra, and the 65% by 2035 recycling target, Mr Hayler began by explaining how delivering necessary infrastructure is “absolutely critical”.

He explained: “There’s so much going on. So many policy changes, introducing so much uncertainty where the is the point of inertia, where people are sitting on their hands waiting for clarity.

“Getting these policies to deliver infrastructure is absolutely critical. I’ve been in multiple meetings where we have been pushing Defra to have more of a focus on how policies are going to deliver infrastructure.”

However, Mr Hayler later added that he is “pretty confident” that the UK can deliver the infrastructure needed to meet “ambitious targets”, with “the right policies” in place.

He said: “If we get the right policy in place that creates the right incentives, then it’s doable – we do have 10- to 15-years time to get it right. We need the clarity and long term stability, and then we need the market to deliver it.”

Data

Speaking next was Ms Aplin, who placed great importance on the need for a more “consistent and comprehensive” system in the UK for the collection of waste data.

Ms Aplin noted Defra’s annual estimates on waste as not being “fit for purpose” anymore, urging the need for a “granular” real-time system, in order to determine the future of waste infrastructure in the UK.

She added that Defra now have promising plans to digitise waste data but urged it to “happen faster.

“When assessing the need for our facilities, and as we get to more advanced technologies within them, we need a level of detail as to what that waste actually comprises.”

‘Mind blown’

I think this has to start with getting recognised as a sector that does infrastructure. And then we can discuss the type of infrastructure we need at a national scale.

  • Tim Rotheray, director of innovation and regulation at Viridor 

Mr Rotheray echoed concerns that waste sector infrastructure is not high up enough on the agenda, saying he was “mind blown” to find out that waste is not regarded as critical waste infrastructure by the UK government.

He claimed: “I think we suffer from the fact that what we do as a sector is very local, and generally has to be quite small because transporting material can get so expensive. So for that reason it doesn’t sit on a national scale. I think this has to start with getting recognised as a sector that does infrastructure. And then we can discuss the type of infrastructure we need at a national scale.”

But we will get there. It’s just about having enough time.”

The event was organised by letsrecycle.com and sponsored by FCC Environment.

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