A sustainable solution: the story
In our view, waste shouldn’t be viewed as such a problem in the UK when it is actually an opportunity to create jobs and a build sustainable industry whilst protecting the environment. So why isn’t everyone thinking like us? Probably because the current ideas for dealing with residual waste in waste-to-energy plants are just a quick, but expensive, fix that compound the issue of waste further and fail to explore the many positives that can be drawn from processing and recycling waste in a more sustainable way.
What’s the issue with waste-to-energy?
Waste-to-energy in parts of Europe has been a success and is certainly preferable to landfill, but already countries are resorting to bringing in waste from other countries, including the UK, to keep plants sustainable. This has to be a concern when so many plants are being planned for the UK – how are they going to be sustainable? Will there be enough suitable waste to go around? By creating infrastructure to burn our waste, the sorting of waste for recycling will be discouraged. Plants will have such a demand for waste that the cost will come down on gate fees, and the cost of separating recycling will become unsustainable in comparison.
A better, cheaper, more sustainable solution
There is currently a fantastic opportunity for the UK to invest in separation technology, which is so much more efficient than it was even just 10 years ago. This technology enables companies like Devon Contract Waste to process residual domestic and commercial waste for onward recycling, developing a sustainable industry and creating jobs at all stages from the processing plant to the many recycling and manufacturing companies that use the waste. One man’s trash quite literally becomes another man’s treasure in the form of innovative products, profitable ventures and secure jobs.
This approach would reduce the UK’s need for so many expensive waste-to-energy plants as well as reducing the amount of our waste that is exported. We have the technology and skills within the country to build hi-tech sorting plants at a fraction of the cost of waste-to-energy ones, which will also bring jobs and benefits to the economy that are so desperately needed.
To build a hi-tech sorting plant and autoclave unit on the back end for 75,000 tonnes per year would cost less than £15m; yet in Exeter, a waste-to-energy plant is costing in excess of £45m and can only deal with 65,000 tonnes per year. This type of project is being repeated all over the country, and whilst producing power from material that has nothing left in it to be recovered certainly has its place, just burning everything without processing first surely cannot be the future of waste in the UK.
The other advantage to hi-tech sorting plants over waste to energy is that collecting waste becomes much simpler for the producer. Sorting plants enable commercial waste and dry mixed recycling to be collected together, at the same time and often in the same container, reducing the impact that separate collections make on the environment and, of course, resources and costs – especially at the client’s end. Those who produce food waste and glass have separate containers and collections for those streams, but everything else goes in one bin making life much easier.
The UK is sat on a big opportunity to do something better than Europe, rather than just copy them with the waste- to-energy model – the question is: why aren’t we?
Find out how Devon Contract Waste’s Zero to Landfill service is leading the way in the South West as the only mixed waste collection service of its type in the region at our unique Enviro hub