Westminster Council's Jarno Stet: 'Energy from Waste will continue to play a role in the overall matrix of waste management'

Westminster Council waste and recycling manager Jarno Stet discusses the challenges of re-procuring contracts and engaging stakeholders.

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Q: What does the UK need to do to move away from landfill? 
A: The UK is already doing this. This transition is taking time, but the latest waste data reporting shows that landfill is no longer the sole dominant waste disposal method and has been overtaken by EfW and recycling.

Q: Does EfW disincentivise recycling rates?
A: That’s an old myth that has never been proven, just repeated countless times in an attempt to make it sound plausible. Recycling and EfW complement each other in a balanced and sustainable waste management portfolio. 

Q: What is the role of EfW in Westminster and how does it help your residents and businesses?
A: It is part of an overall waste management strategy that includes a number of different options to manage our waste. EfW provides an efficient and local option to deal with waste which cannot or should not be recycled, in a hygienic, safe and cost-effective way.

Q: Do you think residents and businesses know what happens to their waste?
A: We publicise all end destinations of whatever waste streams and materials the City Council collects from businesses and residents. It is important we are open and transparent around this. The open days and tours aimed at residents and businesses of the EfW facility are popular, showing the wider public are interested in finding out where their waste goes. 

Q: What percentage of Westminster’s waste goes to EfW?
A: Around 80%, which is publicly available information through Defra reporting. 

Q: How do you create a collection system which suits Westminster’s mixture of residents, businesses and tourists?
A: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for us, but the foundation of the services we offer is simple and extremely robust. Different areas require different local service approaches to meet the demands placed on them by the community they serve. 

Q: What are the main challenges in re-procuring waste and recycling contracts?
A: At present this would be around the sheer number of waste contracts being (re-)procured, combined with uncertainly in financial, secondary materials and energy markets and the possible changes brought on by the Resources and Waste Strategy and Environment Bill 2019.

There is no one-size fits all solution for us, but the foundation of the services we offer is simple and extremely robust.

Q: What do local authorities look for when procuring waste contracts?

A: That varies per authority depending on what priorities they have. What nearly all of them have in common is that financial austerity certainly has not ended for local government, and pressures on budgets and expenditure will continue.

Q: Some see EfW as a transition technology. Do you agree with this opinion?
A: I see our current linear consumption model with the large volume of waste this produces as transitional. EfW has been around since 1896 and the technology has evolved and developed a lot since then and will continue to do so.

EfW will continue to play a role in the overall matrix of waste management technologies to take care of what is not recycled, cannot be recycled, what is rejected by or left over after recycling processes, as well as being ‘pollution sinks’ to keep those volumes of legacy materials which are unsafe and/or toxic far away from re-entering the consumption cycle.

A number of technologies have their place and role (even landfill; for example, for non-combustible/ recyclable fractions) in a well-functioning and balanced waste and resource management system.

Q: What effect will Brexit have on the EfW sector?
A: If I could give you an exact answer to that I would not be sitting here right now. Whatever the outcome, there will always be waste to manage, the volumes and composition of which remain, as always, to be seen.

Q: How can we change public perceptions of EfW?
A: Being open and honest, involving local people from the decision making phase right through to when the facility is operational. A lot of negative noise around EfW is usually made in ‘echo chambers’ by a small but vocal minority.

Q: How can investors be incentivised to build more UK infrastructure?
A: Not all waste management investment solely comes from the private sector. The public sector also plays a role here; for example, NLWA’s North London Heat and Power Project facility in Edmonton is financed with public borrowing.

This interview originally appeared on recyclingwasteworld.co.uk in January 2019.

Energy from Waste

Editorial staff, Energy from Waste

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