The Environmental Service Association (ESA) is calling attention to what it sees as a looming waste capacity shortfall in the UK with a new briefing launched on Thursday. The report titled, "The treatment capacity gap that urgently needs to be addressed" predicts that by 2030, waste arisings in the UK will exceed treatment capacity by 6 million tonnes per year, even if waste exports to the EU continue and waste treatment plants beyond those already in the pipeline are developed.
According to ESA, which represents British private-sector waste management companies, recycling is not necessarily the answer to the shortage of treatment capacity. The trade group maintains that raising recycling rates above the anticipated range of 50-55 per cent would cost at least £1.5m (€1.7bn). Moreover, it would require "significant government intervention" to drive the uptake and use of recycled raw materials.
The trade association's position is supported by a review of existing assessments which it commissioned the Tolvik consultancy to carry out. There has been substantial disagreement as to future arisings and treatment capacity levels in the UK, as well as over the future role of refuse derived fuel (RDF) exports to the Continent, especially following Brexit. The 6 million tonne per year capacity shortfall predicted by Tolvik differs most sharply from the projections made by consulting firm Eunomia in its Residual Waste Infrastructure Review released earlier this year. Eunomia predicts even if recycling does not improve, capacity will exceed residual waste supply in the UK by at least 3.4 million tonnes per year if waste exports continue at current rates.