Eunomia’s Residual Waste Infrastructure Review (£462, or free for the high-level version) predicts possible regional overcapacity for waste treatment capacity in 2015 and possible national overcapacity in 2020 (see Edie article).

One of UKWIN’s argument against new incinerators is that after all viable reduction, re-use, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion has taken place there just wouldn’t be enough residual combustible material left to feed the existing incinerators and those already under construction throughout their operational lifetime, let alone provide any sort of rationale for building even more incinerators (often at great public expense).

We have yet to see a study into this topic which which we are completely happy, and the main problems often comes down to: a lack of distinction between different forms of Energy From Waste, unambitious assumptions regarding the top tiers of the waste hierarchy and a failure to robustly consider whether what remains as ‘genuinely residual’ waste could or should actually be processed by an incinerator (e.g. whether it is combustible, whether its calorific value would cause problems, whether it would be better treated through anaerobic digestion or MBT-landfill, etc).

Other problems can also arise from under-estimating the treatment capacity which currently exists or is under construction. For example the Eunomia report claims that there is currently a capacity gap of 22.3 million tonnes per year between the “residual” waste arisings and the amount of treatment infrastructure capacity either ‘operating’ or ‘under construction’. However, with non-inert landfill currently running at 23 million tonnes, existing incinerators experiencing shortfalls in waste, and plenty of recycling, composting and incineration capacity under construction the actual gap must be considerable less.

The issue of feedstock availability was also identified in the free June 2010 Tolvik Consulting briefing Designing for a Changing Feedstock Supply which was followed up by their and July 2011 UK Residual Waste report (£270).

Other reports of note are Arup’s June 2011 report for DECC Review of the generation costs and deployment potential of renewable electricity technologies in the UK, projections of possible future waste arisings in Defra’s June 2011 report The Economics of Waste and Waste Policy and the September 2011 Urban Mines report Rubbish Economy.

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