What is the ‘Waste Hierarchy’?
Below you will find the definition from the Environment Agency:
“The revised Waste Framework Directive introduces a changed hierarchy of options for managing wastes. It gives top priority to preventing waste in the first place. When waste is created, it gives priority to preparing it for re-use, then recycling, then other recovery such as energy recovery, and last of all disposal (for example landfill).”
How are waste projections made?
For a process which all parties agree is complicated and pretty inaccurate at best, the method is, in PWA’s view, far too simplistic. The NLWP says that a rolling average of the previous three years’ figures are projected on, with estimates for population and economic activity incorporated into it.
Isn’t waste falling and recycling rising?
Yes. DEFRA statistics tell us that:
1. Waste generated has fallen 8% between 2000 and 2010; the latest stats tell us that the overall decline is continuing.
2. Household recycling has risen during the same period by 235%, and green recycling by 365%.
So aren’t projections falling as well?
No – it seems that the ‘rolling three year average’ has been abandoned, in favour of a bland statement by the authorities that "It is expected that a more normal pattern of growth in the waste stream will resume in the near future".
No evidence is offered to support this statement, which PWA can only think is based on shallow expectations of economic recovery and an attachment to the old assumption that waste is directly linked to economic activity.
These waste projections are the sort of information that the EiP of the NLWP would have tested. In PWA’s contention, and that of waste professionals better qualified to judge who were also participants at the NLWP examination, these projections, and many other statistics in the NLWP, do not bear examination. There is no sign of economic recovery, now or in the medium term. Indeed, recovery is being put back further and further, and evidence from increasing financial and monetary problems suggests rather that we may be entering a prolonged slump.
No account has been taken in any projections of the change in behaviour of individuals and businesses, the rapid improvements in recycling technology – the John Lewis Partnership for instance does not have recycling contracts longer than 12 months – or the stream of new biodegradable or recyclable materials. In addition, economic forecasts regularly extend the period of low economic activity, so, even on the simplistic forecasts used, projections should remain depressed.
PWA is not saying that the recent decline should have been the sole basis for projections, but that:
1. At a time when it appears that perceptions and behaviour have changed, a professional assessment would have included a range of possibilities and reactions to those possibilities, and:
2. When the future is so uncertain, for the NLWA to have as its sole plan the building of a colossal facility now, rather than to monitor waste flows and react accordingly, is commercially indefensible.
3. To follow the plan in point 2 is anti-competitive. New technology is far more difficult to introduce into a huge plant, so processes installed now will tend to remain even though future technology may be far more efficient.
Doesn’t the NLWA claim that the results of consultation show that residents back its plan for a few large facilities?
It’s true that, in a consultation which asked people how much they favoured various options, around 50% backed the option of a mix of a few large facilities and some smaller ones. What was inconvenient for the NLWA – which they therefore did not publicise - is that the same consultation indicated that over 90% of responses were in favour of a different option, which was for a larger number of small facilities. This is the much more flexible option favoured by PWA.
Throughout this process, consultation only appears to have been useful when the results have coincided with predetermined decisions.
The NLWA says that PW is a ‘green project’. How true is this?
Remember that the waste first has to be transported to the site, treated, and then transported once again to where the resulting fuel will be burnt – in an incinerator of very low efficiency(PWA understands from experts that the peak is no more than 25%).
The article – ‘How Green is Mechanical Biological Treatment?’ – is actually written by the consultants to the NLWA. It is not to be found on the NLWA website.