A report published today (31 July) by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) looks at whether exporting waste abroad for energy recovery could, in the long-term, “compromise investment in domestic infrastructure”.
CIWM has also questioned whether this will in fact hinder the UK and Ireland’s ability to fulfil their obligations to moving waste up the hierarchy and moving towards a more resource efficient and circular economy.
The report, Research into SRF and RDF exports to other EU countries, looks at whether demand from near-EU countries for waste-derived fuel from the UK and Ireland is likely to continue at the same level, and considers the implications if it doesn’t.
Margaret Bates, chair of the CIWM’s Scientific & Technical Committee, said: “This work raises a number of important questions about the long-term viability of this export trade in the context of broader strategic objectives with regard to waste, resources and energy.”
Steve Lee, CIWM – “CIWM believes that we need to better understand and quantify the extent to which this trade could compromise investment in domestic infrastructure and the UK and Ireland’s ability to fulfil their obligations”
There are a number of newer EU member states that will have to rapidly increase their landfill diversion rates to meet EU targets, potentially resulting in more waste-derived fuel becoming available in the European marketplace.
The report states that it is reasonable to conclude that reliance on exports in the longer term and lack of online domestic energy from waste capacity could, in particular, leave England and Ireland exposed to more volatile markets in the future.
The report states that in the longer-term, while the export of minimally sorted waste for energy recovery provides a cost-effective alternative to landfill, it “does not dovetail with the desired direction of travel towards greater resource efficiency and security.”
The same argument applies with regard to the energy value of RDF. With energy costs and security becoming a much higher priority, longer-term reliance on exports and continued failure to capitalise domestically on the embedded energy in residual waste has to be questioned.
With Ofgem issuing a recent warning that spare electricity power production capacity could fall to two percent by 2015, increasing the risk of blackouts, CIWM believes that the relevant policy makers are failing to take sufficient account of this baseload energy source in its energy and waste policy framework.
In addition, the report suggests that the RDF/SRF being exported could contribute up to five percent of the UK and Ireland’s renewable energy targets.
CIWM chief executive, Steve Lee, said: “In the short term, CIWM believes that a more rigorous and consistent enforcement framework needs to be put in place and further work done to assess the viability of developing a classification system or minimum pre-treatment standard for RDF.
“In the longer term, while accepting that legitimate market forces are driving this material abroad, CIWM believes that we need to better understand and quantify the extent to which this trade could compromise investment in domestic infrastructure and the UK and Ireland’s ability to fulfil their obligations with regard to moving waste up the hierarchy and moving towards a more resource efficient and circular economy.”
The CIWM says that in the absence of “a proper plan that brings resources and energy together” the industry will continue to seek an ad hoc solution that may not meet long-term sustainable goals.
The full report is available here