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Biffa not banking on big British burners

According to MRW, in a recent interview with Biffa CEO Ian Wakelin and MRW’s Neil Roberts, Wakelin stated: “…Biffa would not be investing heavily in large scale EfW incineration plants…because there was no need for it with the capacity already planned in the UK and Europe”.

Such sentiment is in line with Eunomia’s November 2012 research on residual waste treatment overcapacity and warnings from WRAP, CPI and the European Commision regarding UK incineration overcapacity.

Biffa dropped their plans for a 400,000 tpa merchant incinerator in Ware, near Stevenage, Hertfordshire in June 2012 “following feedback from the local community”, and Biffa did not appeal a September 2011 planning refusal for a 400,00 tpa merchant incinerator in Cannock, Staffordshire.

This behaviour is reminiscent of Covanta’s October 2011 decision to drop plans for a 750,000 tpa incinerator at Merthyr Tydfil in Wales because they were not confident that there would be sufficient demand for the facility. Even with the potential of 40% of Welsh local authorities participating in joint procurement, Covanta felt that there would be insufficient residual waste to ensure that the facility would not be left with excess capacity – or, as Covanta put it: “The local authorities have adopted a fragmented approach (not a national approach) to dealing with residual waste. This makes the plant unviable. We have therefore decided to terminate the planning process and concentrate on our other UK projects”.

It seems that the current situation is similar to that predicted by Eunomia in their November 2012 report, with a number of plans for merchant facilities being dropped because of overcapacity but many local authorities pressing ahead with plans for unneeded incinerators due to inertia. Indeed, there are various cases of local authorities who want to drop their incinerator contract but cannot do so easily because of the deal they signed up to, although even high termination costs can be worth it in the long run.

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