Momentum growing behind Willshee’s call for government support in energy-from-waste sector
Calls from one industry expert for increased government support in the energy-from-waste sector are likely to intensify after Essex County Council recently announced that 200,000 tonnes of waste from an underperforming Basildon waste plant will be sent to landfill as of early 2020.
Refuse derived fuel [RDF] from the Eco Tovi Site in Basildon was previously exported to the Netherlands for incineration, due to the limited number of energy-from-waste plants capable of processing RDF on UK shores.
However, the AEB facility producing energy-from-waste in Amsterdam has been subject to partial closure of late, with the Dutch government now planning to impose an import tax of £28-per-tonne on foreign waste entering the country to be incinerated.
An spokesperson from Essex Council said: “Under the new service orders, refuse derived fuel from the Basildon facility will be sent to landfill as the most cost-effective option for the facility’s output. This material has undergone treatment to remove certain recyclables and reduce its biological content making it less active.”
Refuse-derived fuel and municipal solid waste will now go to landfill from the Basildon site and will incur landfill tax costs which are expected to rise to £94 per tonne in 2020.
With movement for waste export set to become limited thanks to developments in the Netherlands, pressure will be mounting for the government to intervene over the UK’s energy-from-waste processing capacity. Indeed, it is something that one waste and recycling company, Willshee’s Skip Hire, has warned about for the last two years.
Willshee’s has been operating in the waste processing and recycling industry since 1984, earning its first contract to supply refuse derived fuel within the UK between 2017-18.
Since becoming familiar with refuse derived fuel and the energy-from-waste industry, managing director Dean Willshee has been vocal about the issues of limited capacity in the UK to process energy-from-waste, particularly as waste companies like Willshee’s Skip Hire continue to increase their tonnages year on year.
Speaking to The Parliamentary Review, Wilshee said: “The challenge we encounter for non-recyclables as a business and as an industry is having insufficient UK-based energy-from-waste plants to deal with the levels of waste created in the UK.
“Willshee’s have a contract to supply 40,000 tonnes per annum of RDF within the UK; the remainder of our RDF is sent to energy from waste plants across northern Europe. The limited amount of UK outlets is a concern as we continue to grow our business and our tonnages.
“The implications of Brexit are still unclear, particularly with respect to the export of RDF material and how it will be affected.”
With the Dutch imposing tax on waste imports, it appears that issues exporting waste are coming the fore even ahead of Brexit and the industry is having to adapt to that.
One shortcoming Willshee discussed is the issue of the energy-from-waste industry being dominated by local authorities and large multinationals, meaning that smaller companies are unable to contribute and share the burden.
Willshee said: “The provision of RDF for the energy-from-waste sector is dominated by the large multinational companies and local authorities, giving little or no access to medium-sized businesses.”
His main concern about exporting RDF was that the UK economy is deprived of a valuable renewable and sustainable energy source by sending it abroad, and he called on the government to support the UK industry further to mirror European counterparts.
“We are therefore concerned that we will be sending our RDF to Europe or other parts of the world for many years to come, meaning that the UK economy is missing out on a valuable source of energy.
“RDF is a sustainable direct carbon fuel replacement and with energy plants becoming more required than ever and waste in no short supply, we feel as a company that the government should be providing support for the energy-from-waste sector, as governments across Europe have done for many years.
“This would help the UK become more self-sufficient with its energy requirements for many years to come.”
Willshee’s has already been investing in new separation technology to help produce raw materials for recycling and refuse derived fuel to go to energy-from-waste plants in anticipation of being given more leeway in the sector. Yet, with the UK’s ability to export a Brexit question-mark and considering recent occurrences in Amsterdam, turning to firms like Willshee’s and providing more support for those in the industry may be a real option for the next government to consider if it is to avoid a waste problem in the making.