April 27th, 2018

Bad news: why journalists get the environment wrong

by Mike Brown

 

Listening to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier this year, I heard an interviewer premise a question by saying that coffee cups weren’t really disposable because they couldn’t be recycled. Read that again – it makes no sense however you look at it. While it betrays a pretty weak grasp of what “disposable” means, in itself it’s a fairly harmless blunder – but it led to me to reflect on how often media outlets, even those you might regard as ‘quality media’, get things wrong on environment issues, and the impact that this has.

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April 13th, 2017

A gas-tly mess?

by Mike Brown

 

As the UK’s landfill infrastructure rapidly approaches its retirement, this seismic change in how waste is managed is spitting out a range of issues that our current system is ill-suited to manage.  I’ve previously examined issues of how aftercare is funded, and the resilience challenges that a move away from landfill will bring – but it also has implications for the future of landfill gas operations.

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November 4th, 2016

What’s worse than landfill?

by Mike Brown

 

For the best part of twenty years, the message for waste managers has been clear. Landfill is bad. Do everything you can to get waste out of landfill. Over that time, it has been a pretty decent rule of thumb, if one that has its limits. However, I suspect that policy makers may soon have to face up to something that those involved at the sharp end of waste operations may already understand. Certainly, landfill is bad – but no access to landfill might, for a while at least, be even worse.

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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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