Existing waste treatment infrastructure will be unable to cope with the volume of residual waste expected over the next decade, a report published by waste management firm SITA UK today (February 26) has warned.
The report, entitled Mind the Gap, presents an assessment of UK residual waste treatment capacity between 2015 and 2025, and claims an estimated 17.8 million tonnes of residual waste will need to be landfilled or exported as RDF under current projections.
One of the largest causes of the gap in infrastructure, SITA UK claims, is a lack of accurate data needed to underpin investment in new facilities.
The study suggests that for every million tonnes of waste diverted from landfill, between 10 and 20 new treatment facilities will have to be built with an estimated injection of over 10 billion for alternative infrastructure needed.
And, some industry members also predict that a further 10-15 billion may be required if the total commercial and industrial waste arisings going to landfill are also to be diverted and treated.
The report concludes that in order to bridge the gap, data capture for C&I waste should be addressed by adopting a generic system across the industry, while stronger incentives and policies are needed to maintain or increase recycling rates.
In addition, the report recommends that the government should issue guidance on the best collection techniques to minimise contamination of recyclate streams, integrate energy-from-waste into UK energy planning for domestic use of RDF, and incentivise the use the heat produced via the EfW process.
Publication of the study follows a debate in 2013 over the accuracy of the governments data on waste arisings after council planning officers warned that existing projections over the amount of waste being generated were out of date (see letsrecycle.com story).
Commenting on todays release, chief executive officer of SITA UK, David Palmer-Jones, said: Forward planning in the waste management sector is very challenging, but it is a challenge we must overcome if the UK aspires to become a resource-efficient economy.
Although the priority is to recycle as much as possible, reducing the volume and maximising the value of residual waste is also key to a circular economy, however, responsible investment in treatment facilities can only be made on the basis of sound evidence.
That is why, as a front-line operator, we have looked hard at the data we collect and shared our forecasts for residual waste generation over the next ten years and the additional treatment capacity the UK will need if a circular economy is to become a reality.
However, the research also found that the gap between treatment capacity and the volume of residual waste will close and level out at 5.7 million tonnes by 2025, as arisings drop against the proportion of materials that have been recycled or avoided altogether.
Some sections of the waste sector remain divided over the forecasted levels of C&I waste arisings for England alone. In November last year, chairman of consultancy Eunomia Dominic Hogg said a report published by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management on C&I infrastructure had not convincingly demonstrated a capacity gap, as different treatments for C&I waste could be used for different waste streams (see letsrecycle.com story).