NIC calls for modernisation of UK waste management systems

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) released its Second National Infrastructure Assessment this week, calling for infrastructure improvements to waste management, to help meet UK’s climate targets through increased recycling and decarbonisation.
NIC calls for modernisation of UK waste management systems

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) released its Second National Infrastructure Assessment this week, calling for infrastructure improvements to help meet the UK’s climate targets. The assessment included calls for the Government to implement reforms that meet a 65% recycling target by 2035 and phase out Energy from Waste plants that do not have carbon capture facilities. Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt, said, “People often talk about infrastructure as the backbone of our economy: what our infrastructure needs now is the collective mettle to turn commitments into action that will reap rewards for decades to come.”

The second national infrastructure assessment – a five-yearly review conducted by the NIC, has set out a ‘programme of transformation’ for the UK’s energy, transport and other networks over the next 30 years. The NIC used the UK Government's target, set out in their 2020 Circular Economy Package, that 65% of waste be recycled by 2035 to suggest reform needed to reach this. Their recommendations included working with local authorities to tailor individual recycling targets and encourage more bans on hard-to-recycle plastics. The NIC believes that increasing recycling and phasing out EfW plants without carbon capture facilities will reduce emissions from the waste sector and encourage investment in recycling. 

The advice from the NIC has not been welcomed by all in the sector, however last month, UK EfW operator, enfinium, published a report with similar calls for no new EfW plants that lack carbon capture and storage facilities after 2025. CEO of enfinium, Mike Maudsley, said, “enfinium welcomes the recommendations of the Second National Infrastructure Assessment. As the report highlights, installing carbon capture technology on Energy from Waste facilities can provide vital carbon removals to support Net Zero and help communities decarbonise.” 

Recently, new bans on single-use plastics came into force, and in this year’s budget, the UK government promised an investment of £20 billion into CCS projects around the UK. However, the assessment suggests NIC believes further reform is needed to make EfW plants sufficient in the future. Armitt added:

The good news is that modern, reliable infrastructure can support economic growth, help tackle climate change and enhance the natural environment. We stand at a pivotal moment in time, with the opportunity to make a major difference to this country’s future. But we need to get on with it.”

Policy Advisor from the NIC, Joanna Pearce, will be speaking at the Energy from Waste 2024 conference next year. She will discuss how they see the future structure of the EfW sector. Find tickets to the conference here.

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