NI Government Challenged to Deliver Coordinated Waste and Energy Policies to Deal with Climate Change Emergency
The Becon Consortium, the organisation behind plans to develop the £240m residual waste management facilities to meet the needs of the six arc21 councils in Northern Ireland has welcomed the publication of the ‘No Time to Waste’ report from the UK cross-party think tank, Policy Connect. It has also challenged the Northern Ireland government to respond with its own updated strategy which recognises the increasing need for waste and energy policies to be coordinated to address the climate change emergency.
The UK report backed by DEFRA Minister for the Environment Rebecca Pow, clearly states that the landfilling and exporting of non-recyclable waste from UK homes and businesses should be de-prioritised in favour of Energy from Waste (EfW) and recognises that the UK is “disproportionally lagging behind” much of Europe in harnessing the benefits of Energy from Waste. It states that the UK’s waste footprint has grown steadily since 1990, despite concerted action from policymakers and businesses around a ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ framework. As such, the UK is currently producing 27.5 million tonnes of non-recyclable waste annually, excluding plastics. It also recognises that “EfW can play a critical role as the UK builds back better from the impact of COVID-19 on our society and economy.”
The report outlines that the UK’s options for dealing with this waste are to either thermally treat it to create Energy from Waste, landfill it domestically, or ship it overseas. It argues that the latter option is not compatible with the UK’s commitments on climate change or waste and resources. Policy Connect concludes that although that exported waste is often documented as recycled or sustainably managed, this is not always the case as it is often either treated in unregulated locations or left to pollute nature. Moreover, many nations are banning or limiting legitimate waste imports through taxation, which has pushed up the cost of this option considerably in recent years.
Of the two remaining options, the report states that scaling up EfW is the better choice as the UK strives to recover from Covid-19 and to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period, dubbing it “safer, cheaper and cleaner” than landfill. This also recognises the UK’s adoption of the EU circular economy targets which caps landfill at 10% by 2035 alongside an ambitious recycling target of 65%.
Speaking about the report, which was backed by the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group which includes former Environment and Climate Change Ministers and other relevant party environment spokespeople, John Ahern from the Becon Consortium said;
“It is very encouraging to see how this UK think tank report is entirely consistent with the findings from a recent report delivered by Grant Thornton about the arc21 residual waste project here in Northern Ireland. They both recognise the importance of delivering sustainable and self-sufficient solutions for our waste that prioritise Energy from Waste over continuing to landfill or exporting our waste to fuel EfW plants across Europe.
“The report concludes that EfW has an important role to play in the necessary transition ahead of us: both as the lowest carbon solution for managing residual waste, but also by providing low carbon heat and electricity and supporting other sectors’ decarbonisation efforts. It states that waste management must be a key consideration as the UK’s focus shifts to net-zero carbon by 2050 and to addressing the long-term impacts of COVID-19.
“Just as the Grant Thornton report came to the same conclusion for Northern Ireland, their calculations show that even if the UK meets its ambitious 2035 recycling targets, there will continue to be large volumes of residual waste produced long into the future which need managed. Key to this capacity gap is Energy from Waste if we are to avoid millions of tonnes of rubbish being sent to landfill or exported for the value to be extracted elsewhere.
“We also welcome that the report recognises that the success of this new approach will require investment from central government alongside clear policy interventions, complemented by equally extensive investment from the private sector. It is why companies like ourselves in Indaver are keen to invest heavily in this technology here in Northern Ireland and across the rest of the UK and Ireland at our own risk. This is not only to manage waste in a more sustainable way, but to ensure its full value can be extracted to help deliver wider decarbonisation benefits which the EfW process can enable. We are calling on Northern Ireland political leaders to bring forward similar policy interventions here in Northern Ireland that recognise the strategic role our waste can play in supporting decarbonisation targets and in addressing the climate change emergency.”
The ‘No Time to Waste’ report from the UK cross party think tank, Policy Connect report can be found here HTTPS://WWW.POLICYCONNECT.ORG.UK/RESEARCH/NO-TIME-WASTE-RESOURCES-RECOVERY-ROAD-NET-ZERO
The Recent Grant Thornton report – ‘An opportunity we can’t afford to waste’ about the arc21 waste infrastructure project can be found here – HTTP://BECON.CO.UK/ADMIN/RESOURCES/GRANT-THORNTON-REPORT-RE-ARC21-PROJECT-FINAL-SMALL.PDF