August 21st, 2015

Who will care for the UK’s elderly landfills?


by Mike Brown and Bethany Ledingham


The speed of change in the residual waste sector is both unprecedented and unrelenting. There are many positives to emphasise – some efforts towards waste prevention, more reuse and recycling, and new and environmentally preferable treatment technologies are all having an impact.

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December 5th, 2014

Is waste a source of renewable energy?


by Mike Brown


Whenever you look at material produced by the developers and users of energy from waste (EfW) incinerators, you soon come across the phrase “renewable energy”. Vince Cable used the term to describe a new incinerator in Lincolnshire just last week. On the websites of companies such as ViridorSITA, of councils from Glasgow to London, or of the Green Investment Bank, which has stepped in to fund several EfW projects – incineration is consistently referred to in the terms generally reserved for forms of energy such as wind, wave and geothermal.

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August 1st, 2014

Storing up trouble: is export the cause of ‘orphaned’ waste?


by Mike Brown


To call the increase in the amount of UK waste being exported to mainland Europe as refuse derived fuel (RDF) over the past few years ‘dramatic’ would be an understatement. Growth from around 270,000 tonnes in 2011 to over 1,500,000 tonnes in 2013 has now been surpassed with current tonnages of 800,000 in the first quarter of 2014. With landfill around £100/t, exporting residual waste to take advantage of low gate fees at underused European incinerators is an enticing prospect. Recently, this prospect has become relevant not only to waste companies managing C&I waste but also to those handling municipal waste. And with European facilities usually considerably more efficient than those in the UK – harnessing heat in addition to generating electricity – there can even be a strong environmental case for export.

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May 3rd, 2013

Too much authority, not enough planning


by Mike Brown


I owe Deborah Meaden a bit of an apology. In an article in February I cocked a snook at her comments that the key considerations about the Gloucestershire incinerator were aesthetic, when for me the central issues were long term availability of feedstock and whether the scale of the incinerator was consistent with maximising recycling.

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March 4th, 2013

Incinerators in the dragons’ den

Sheffield Incinerator

by Mike Brown


Sometimes it takes a really clear expression of the fundamentals of a point of view to help you see what’s wrong with it. A couple of weekends ago, BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions came to the Gloucester Guildhall. One of the hot local topics is the county council’s incinerator plan, and a number of its opponents were in the audience, and a question was raised about whether it was “a blot on the landscape or a necessary step to securing an ecologically sustainable environment”.

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October 26th, 2012

Waste infrastructure: planning to fail

Gravel Pit Excavation, off Sands Lane, Mirfield - - 107936

By Mike Brown


Why isn’t merchant residual waste infrastructure getting built? Millions of tonnes of non-recyclable commercial and industrial (C&I) waste is being landfilled each year when it could be moved up the hierarchy. Meanwhile there is enough capacity with planning consent to treat 5 million tonnes per year more waste than we landfill, but many facilities remain just blueprints.

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September 25th, 2012

The tax that dare not speak its name

Marchwood EfW Plant

by Mike Brown


Amongst the speakers at the Resource & Waste Management show in Birmingham last week was physicist Brian Cox, who explained the likely cost of disposing of waste by sending it into space. It would be about $2,000 per kilogram, apparently, to reach only a low earth orbit, where I expect it would be a hazard to satellites and spacecraft. To propel our waste into the safety of deep space would require a gate fee that was… well, astronomical.

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