Turning Waste into an Asset with GPT Waste
Businesses need to ensure they are diverting their waste from landfill in order to operate efficiently and sustainably.
More countries are restricting imports of foreign plastic waste, as new data shows a dramatic rise in exports of UK waste to a raft of countries following China’s decision to ban “foreign trash” in January last year.
According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), since China’s 2018 waste import ban, waste that would have been exported into the country flooded into Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand. These countries then set up import restrictions, which meant this overflowed into Indonesia, India, and Turkey.
GAIA says this process will continue until decisive action is taken and that waste is piling up globally and domestically for all countries involved – even former exporters – as plastic waste exports has dropped almost 50%.
Companies and consumers are being “bullied” into recycling in this country for markets that don’t want our waste. In recent announcements, Theresa May has mentioned a tax on incineration may be introduced if waste and recycling targets are not met. The Prime Minister said the tax would work in conjunction with the landfill tax, however, she added that energy-from-waste plants “play, and continue to play, an important role in reducing the rubbish sent to landfill”.
EfW is seen as a sustainable alternative to landfill, using household, commercial and non-hazardous industrial residual waste left after recycling and composting efforts as fuel to generate electricity. The landfill tax, first introduced in 1996 as a policy to help meet landfill diversion targets, has been the key driver of the switch from landfill to EfW as the preferred route for disposal of residual waste.
The last few years has seen the commoditisation of waste on a global level; whilst the reuse of waste has existed for a number of years in the recycling sector, whether it be scrap metal, carboard, paper, or various grades of plastic, waste on mass was never really identified as a commodity; with the advent of waste to energy all that has changed.
This has been driven by a combination of coal retirements in the power station sector, a need to drive renewables and the further drive to find alternative uses for waste opposed to just landfill.
Aggregating waste volumes around the continent to energy facilities from the UK now represents some 225K tonnes per month.
New waste to energy facilities are coming on line at a rapid pace in the UK which raises the further question as to how long we will continue to export for.
Official figures suggest the sector is in rude health; there were 40 EfW facilities in the UK in 2017, up from 26 in 2014, and between them they have an operational capacity of handling 12 million tonnes of waste a year, according to analysis by Tolvik Consulting. In 2018 it is expected that, for the first time, the tonnage of residual waste sent to EfW in the UK will exceed the tonnage sent to landfill, a figure predicted to rise to nearly 16 million by 2022.
Furthermore, the concept of landfill mining has the potential to turn old landfill sites into a source of raw material ready for processing in to power stations; this technology has existed on the continent in Scandinavia and Germany for many years, resulting in zero to landfill being achieved in the 90’s.
Waste is an issue for all of us. We all create it and that means we are all responsible for what happens to it. Waste needs to be dealt with in the safest way possible. Businesses need to find a suitable and efficient way to deal with their waste, if you’re wondering whether your current waste strategy is working now is the time to think about a different approach and the impact it can have on your organisation’s bottom line.
Guy Cherry, Managing Director at GPT said:
“I personally and professionally back a waste hierarchy that is “real” and one that can be effective; not one that tells you what you should do when the market doesn’t want to. It’s not an ideal world and the danger is this one will become a greater mess if we don’t back waste to energy as a core outlet for waste on mass.”
Do you have any questions about the Waste Solution? If you’re looking for someone to review your waste management policy, please feel free to get in touch.