David Newman, ISWA President, explains that Northern European waste to energy plants are now running at full capacity and gate fees are rising.

David Newman, ISWA President, explains that Northern European waste to energy plants are now running at full capacity and gate fees are rising.

Attending the ISWA- Avfall Sweden Beacon Conference on waste to energy in Malmoe this week, there were a couple of eye-opening presentations.

From the UK Eunomia presented their estimates of UK waste treatment capacities and how these affect RDF exports. Currently the UK is exporting around 3 million tonnes of RDF to the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and others and they estimate this will plateau at around 3.5 million tonnes in the next 2/3 years.

Then new treatment capacities will come on stream in the UK and by around 2020 the UK will be self sufficient and indeed, if all approved projects are finally realised, will have a significant over capacity by around 2025.

Exports of UK RDF to Europe was also a theme of the second presentation from the German waste to energy association. Until 2014 German plants had a spare capacity of around 5-8% of total approved capacity, around 23 million tonnes annually.

Now, a year later, they are running at 100% capacity. This is great for those running incinerators because spot gate fees are now rising fast, to around €150 per tonne for those without contracts, and this is causing trouble for an already weakened recycling sector- now, in order to dispose if the waste from sorting plants, they are forced into high price contracts, squeezing them at the disposal end. They are already squeezed by low prices for the recyclates, so are suffering an unpredicted financial pressure.

Well, it may have been unpredictable for them but had they read this blog and other articles in WMW and ISWA reports of the last three years, they would have seen it coming. I did.

So countries like Lebanon, running around without a plan looking for help to dispose of their waste, are hitting a brick wall. The message is, waste to energy plants in northern Europe are now running at full capacity again. And that situation is not likely to change until the UK gets its own plants on stream in around 3/5 years time.

David Newman, ISWA President