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Developments in the waste and resources sector

Green Investment Bank Residual Waste Report
GIB recently reported that there is an opportunity to invest approximately £5 billion in UK energy from waste infrastructure (estimated between 4 and 7.7 million tonnes of merchant capacity), with an emphasis on processing commercial and industrial (C&I) waste. The report follows an assessment of the UK waste market and identifies a need for additional infrastructure in the UK to 2020 (to meet EU landfill diversion and recycling targets) and beyond.

Following the end of the PFI programme for local authority waste treatment facilities, the market for ‘merchant’ projects in the UK is developing, encouraged by the Government’s support for advanced thermal conversion technology (such as gasification). The report highlights that for investors looking to provide capital, understanding the future size and shape of the UK waste market is a vital element in assessing the overall risk/reward profile of these projects as well as the expected green benefits that they may provide. The availability of long-term waste supply contracts is likely to remain one of the key challenges to merchant projects.

From 1 January 2015 the Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 require paper, metals, plastics and glass to be collected separately where this is (a) necessary to achieve high quality recycling and (b) “technically, environmentally and economically practicable” (TEEP). However, a number of local authorities have opted to continue with (or move to) ‘commingled’ collections of such materials after applying the two-stage test. WRAP, London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and local authority waste networks published a ‘Route Map’ in April 2014 to help councils conduct an assessment of whether separate collections are necessary and ‘TEEP’. All waste authorities should keep their collection and recycling arrangements under review to ensure they and their future strategies and contract procurements continue to comply with the Regulations.

New Planning Policy for Waste
In November the Government published the new ‘National Planning Policy for Waste’, replacing PPS 10. The planning system is vital in ensuring the adequate and timely provision of facilities to meet local and national waste needs and complying with the ‘waste hierarchy’ set out in EU and national waste regulations (eg by increasing re-use, recycling and resource/energy recovery).

The policy is greatly reduced in length (just five pages of substantive policy) and includes key provisions such as:

  • greater focus on local plans. Planning authorities are to develop plans based on proportionate evidence regarding local waste arisings and national waste management requirements.
  • local plans must identify opportunities to meet the area’s waste management needs and recognise the importance this should be given alongside other spatial planning concerns.
  • on-site management of waste: when planning for waste management facilities local authorities are to give priority to re-use of previously-developed land, sites identified for employment uses and redundant agricultural and forestry buildings.
  • suitable sites outside the Green Belt should be the first ‘go to’ for development of waste facilities.
  • waste management is to be considered in applications for non waste-related developments. Local planning authorities are directed to ensure there is sufficient provision for waste management in all developments.

The encouragement given to co-locate waste facilities with complementary activities where possible is significant. The re-use of heat produced is specifically advocated, echoing the Policy’s wider encouragement for use of heat as an energy source. This may favour location close to existing sewage treatment works and/or urban areas, for example.

Whether the policy will achieve the Government’s wide-ranging objectives and prove to be “an easily understood waste planning policy framework … which can be followed by local authorities, waste developers and local communities alike” remains to be seen.

Permitting and Licensing Consultation
The Environment Agency seeks views on a range of waste-related activities and associated conditions for proposed new rules. The consultation closes on 6 March 2015. Proposals include changes or new rules relating to:

  • risk assessment for asbestos waste transfer operations.
  • a new Fire Prevention Plan requirement for those permitted sites allowed to store combustible waste material.
    the expansion of household waste packaging codes for four rule sets covering civic amenity sites and metal recycling facilities.
  • the requirements derived from the Industrial Emissions Directive.
  • allowing metal recycling and WEEE treatment activities to take place at the same site.

Glass Recycling Targets
The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2890) came into force on 24 November 2014 and change the recycling and the recycling by re-melt targets for glass packaging waste for the years 2014-17 in light of new evidence about the glass packaging market.