Charlotte Morton, chief executive officer for the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA), looks at what policies the anaerobic digestion (AD) sector needs from the next government, to support both the sector and the waste industry.
At the time of our last piece for Circular Online, we were looking ahead to possible consultations on waste policy, and what needed to happen in the expected Budget to propel our respective sectors forward. How times change!
we have written to all party leaders with our proposals to supercharge anaerobic digestion and ensure we can make our contribution towards cutting UK Co2 emissions by at least 5%
At the time of writing we are in the middle of an unpredictable election campaign, one that will have a fundamental impact on whether we exit the European Union, on what terms, and the sort of domestic agenda we will follow on the environment, waste, farming and energy policy in the years ahead.
Elections are a useful opportunity for us to promote the policies that we believe will progress our sectors over the life of the next Parliament.
As such, we have written to all party leaders with our proposals to supercharge anaerobic digestion and ensure we can make our contribution towards cutting UK Co2 emissions by at least 5% – these policies will also have benefits for the waste and recycling sector, who our members rely on for a significant amount of their feedstock.
Our key asks for the new Government are outlined below.
1 – Cross-departmental coordination
Whoever wins, the Treasury must keep its new brief to coordinate environmental policy. AD is currently predominantly recognised for its role in generating green energy for electricity, heat and transport, but the low carbon residue from the AD process is also needed for use as an alternative to chemical fertilisers for farming and is central to the future of biorefining.
AD brings benefits across multiple sectors and so policy must be designed and coordinated effectively across Government departments for this sector to fulfil its carbon abatement potential.
2 – Funding for separate food waste collections
Food waste must be collected separately and diverted to AD plants for recycling, so the current commitment to mandatory separate collections for households and businesses must be put into effect as soon as possible, and Local Authorities must be funded to meet set-up and infrastructure development costs.
Over the next three years,we estimate thataround seventyLocal Authorities are due to renew their waste collection contracts and it is crucial that these contracts include separate collection of food waste and treatment through AD.
3 – Policy incentives for anaerobic digestion
The next Government must commit as soon as possible to additional support for AD beyond 2021 as all current support is due to end by this date.
The AD sector urgently needs clarity on future policy incentives to stimulate planning and investment in the additional capacity that is required to efficiently recycle the additional food waste that will be produced once collections come in, and to treat the 90M tons of manures and slurries currently emitting methane and other pollutants.
4 – Research and Innovation
Supporting R&I could help supercharge the AD industry and put it at the cutting edge of biorefining science. ADBA has proposed the setting up of a virtual Centre for Anaerobic Biotechnology and Bioresources Research (CABB) to transform an industry currently perceived mainly as a waste treatment technology into a low cost multi-functional biotechnology.
It would also provide a boon to British exports and enhance the sector’s performance to eliminate the need for future subsidies.
AD and biogas should be given the same fair treatment now so that it can realise its huge potential towards decarbonising the UK economy by 2030
The next ten years are critical for achieving significant emissions reductions. If we are to meet Net Zero targets, ministers must implement policies that promote the development of this sector as a matter of urgency.
Other renewable industries, such as wind and solar, have enjoyed consistent support and are now extremely cost-effective and established as part of our renewable energy mix.
AD and biogas should be given the same fair treatment now so that it can realise its huge potential towards decarbonising the UK economy by 2030 – and we will need to work closely with the waste and recycling sector in the new Parliament to achieve our mutual aims.
We are engaging with all parties in advance of the manifestos and will be lobbying the new government hard after Christmas.