OPINION: Phil Piddington, managing director of Viridor, says that his company sees evidence of a long-term gap in residual waste and treatment capacity, with a potential impact on landfill sites in areas not served by energy from waste plants.
With our fleet of Energy Recovery Facilities (Runcorn, Ardley, the joint venture at Lakeside, Exeter, Cardiff, Peterborough, Glasgow, Beddington and Dunbar), and only one (Avonmouth) remaining under construction, Viridor conducts regular market analysis and the key message from this is that demand will continue to surpass supply, with arisings expected to remain almost flat at about 80 million tonnes per annum and the residual waste capacity gap forecast to remain at circa 7MT by 2035.
This demand is likely to drive exploration of future energy recovery opportunities, but it is important to note that this under-capacity varies by geography and this will also strongly inform landfill strategy.
Our UK focus remains one of landfill diversion, however, these sophisticated, modern sites do play an important role in areas not served by energy recovery and where haulage costs to direct residual waste to ERFs would be prohibitive.
In the South West, where Viridor has its headquarters, planning permission was granted lsat year to reopen Heathfield Landfill site in South Devon.
The site was closed in January 2016, with the decision based on the common understanding that existing Exeter, Plymouth and Cornwall waste sites, including Viridor’s Energy from Waste facility in Exeter, would be sufficient to meet waste needs in the South West.
However, due to changing market conditions, it became clear that demand for residual waste was greater than the current capacity of waste sites in Devon and Cornwall.
With Broadpath Landfill site in Tiverton, Mid Devon, due to close, it became necessary to review the status of the region’s waste sites. Heathfield has a significant void which made it the most sensible option to meet the region’s waste requirements.
There will be a shift over time to meet ambitious government targets but with the Resources & Waste Strategy, the 2022 tax on packaging with less than 30% recycling material and the sustainability targets of major consumer brands, we have forecast a plastics reprocessing capacity gap (see letsrecycle.com story).
As part of Viridor’s expansion in this area, Pennon announced in the Full Year Results a £65m investment in a plastic reprocessing plant at Viridor’s Avonmouth Resource Recovery Centre, with the plant powered by and receiving heat from our £252m energy recovery facility.
Government policy helps create an impetus for a long-term investment strategy and market demand but clearly the industry needs to be heard on Deposit Return Schemes and Extender Producer Responsibility, enabling us to capture resources currently escaping the recycling net and ensuring the investment needed to future-proof recycling effectively and efficiently supports UK circular economy and sustainability ambitions.