Maria Vinogradova of Ricardo AEA, the company commissioned to prepare this year’s CIWM President’s Report into C&I waste data, summarises the findings
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CIWM’s new president, David Beadle, accepted the chain of office last week at a ceremony in the House of Lords. This year, the Institution’s president will champion the need for an improved understanding and management of commercial and industrial wastes. To coincide with the event, Ricardo-AEA was commissioned to prepare a report on the current state of play with regards C&I waste data, future processing capacity, and challenges associated with this market.
A Crucial Issue In Waste Management
For many years the focus of ministers, regulators, and even consultants has been the management of municipal wastes. This has been driven by European legislation and the subsequent UK Government PFI programme to deliver infrastructure to manage waste collected by local authorities. David Beadle qualified the sector’s hitherto position on the vast quantities of C&I waste as one of “collective denial”.
Looking at existing data on C&I waste, we found even less than could have been expected. All of the national surveys completed in the UK share critical common drawbacks. They are outdated, published a significant time after data collection. The instances of actual data collection are painfully few, and where they do exist, the sample size and strategy is far from ideal. Most studies present extrapolated data on which further studies are constructed, and as such the cumulative assumptions begin to form a fragile house of cards. No sound policy or project decisions can realistically be made on a foundation of such metrological quick sand.
“Most studies present extrapolated data on which further studies are constructed, and as such the cumulative assumptions begin to form a fragile house of cards”
However, we can use this data to draw high level, sensitive and careful conclusions about the state of our waste streams and our ability to deal with them. Applying a range of growth factors to existing data, our report concludes, that waste from businesses, commercial and industrial premises, constitutes about 58 million tonnes of the current UK waste stream. Most stakeholders we spoke to concluded that the volume of this waste is unlikely to drop dramatically between now and 2020. Although our resource management practices are improving, we are starting from a depleted position, coming out of recession, and waste volumes will grow as businesses and their numbers grow – this is inevitable in the short term. Our report shows a relatively stable, but not falling, level of C&I waste generation across the UK and Ireland, with reduction in some regions, driven by variances in the economy, employment and industry. Whichever way we look at it, and there are some major concerns about baseline data – its accessibility and quality, there is likely to be about 60 million tonnes of C&I waste to deal with by 2020.
The Treatment Capacity Gap
How you deal with this significant volume of material touches on the somewhat hot topic of waste capacities, which has been much debated by us and others in the industry press over the last 18 months. Looking at the current capacity for sorting, organic and thermal treatment, our report suggests there is currently about 22 million tonnes per annum of capacity in the UK. With many projects still in development, we suspect this will rise significantly to 38 million tonnes by 2020. However, much of this is expected capacity has been procured for use by, local authority generated wastes within large municipal funded contracts.
As a result, looking at all waste streams and all likely processing technologies, we suspect that the UK and Republic of Ireland is likely to be up to 15 million tonnes per annum short of the necessary waste management capacity by 2020. The consequences are stark: higher costs of landfill for all waste producers; greater reliance on uncertain export markets; and the loss of value from both materials and energy inherent in these commercial waste streams.
Coming Out Of The Mire
The industry needs to act now if it is to close this dangerous capacity gap. With a high profile champion like CIWM President David Beadle, the sector can work together towards developing better datasets and reporting protocols for waste arisings; identifying opportunities for creating stable long term C&I markets; and convincing planners and investors that there is still waste to deal with and it is a good sector to be involved with.
“We recognise that our report adds another voice to the multitude of forecasts and predictions plaguing the sector with uncertainty. But ultimately, we are all measuring different things in different ways”
One particular action we would like to promote is establishing a common methodology for forecasting waste arisings and infrastructure capacity. We recognise that our report adds another voice to the multitude of forecasts and predictions plaguing the sector with uncertainty. But ultimately, we are all measuring different things in different ways. We believe the CIWM report is the first to look at waste and infrastructure in broad categories – all MSW-like waste and a range of processing technologies. But we do not consider ours to be a final and definitive forecast – this is just the beginning of the journey.
We look forward to an opportunity to come together with our peers and develop a best practice approach to data gathering and analysis, with clearly defined boundaries and assumptions acceptable to all. A common methodology and an understanding of the impeding capacity crisis can help us formulate strong and strategic messages within and beyond the waste industry, and help underpin the investment cases needed to get the necessary infrastructure off the drawing board.
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