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16 & 17 SEPT 2020


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16 & 17 SEPT 2020 - NEC, BIRMINGHAM

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Do you want to save the planet?

National Infrastructure Commission Seeks Waste Industry Input

The National Infrastructure Commission is asking for input to their thinking. It will shape our industry and its role for decades, but we only have until 12th January next year to do it.

The Commission will report to Government next year on what infrastructure is needed in the UK between now and 2050. “Waste” is one of their 7 priority areas in their report: “Congestion, Capacity, Carbon: Priorities for National Infrastructure” which came out on 13th October. The clues are in the title. There are clear links between this assessment and the Government’s long-term and ambitious climate change plans – seen in the “Clean Growth Plan” which came out the day before the Commission’s report, and the UK Industrial Strategy - which we hope to see before Christmas.

The Commission’s vision is for abundant low cost, low carbon energy, far less waste and more efficient, sustainable treatment of residual waste in the UK. They recognize the “waste” industry as a success story in cutting emissions so far – down 73% between 1990 and 2016, largely driven by the strong move away from landfill, but more is needed. They warn that existing Government policy will NOT deliver their own emissions reduction plans and that Government interventions WILL be needed. For waste, they highlight:

energy from waste infrastructure is a more sustainable (lower carbon) option compared to coal, but as the carbon intensity of the UK energy mix falls, EfW will have to become more efficient to maintain that advantage, including heat export and heat networks.

separating plastics from waste and sequestrating it.

anaerobic digestion, particularly if the biogas is used as a transport fuel (with links to air quality via a strategy to appear early 2018).

managing demand and incentivising behaviour - important in reducing emissions from waste.

incentives for producers to reduce packaging. Success for PRNs depends on supporting other policies such as recycling targets and landfill tax. Getting the “mix” right is crucial.

And they explore what sources of gas and domestic heating energy we will need, as well as drought and flooding and the built environment. If you’re really into resources-in-the-round you can see all of these issues are intimately linked.

The Commission needs our input before producing their Infrastructure Assessment next year. We need to think long and hard about our submissions, but, for starters:

  • Why concentrate on “wastes”? The commission recognises that whilst important, waste only contributes about 7% of total emissions in the UK. We know our contribution to “resources” and their impacts is far bigger – and with a vital contribution to resource productivity and economic growth / stability. That’s a vital link into the UK Industrial Strategy.

  • Packaging is important in cutting resource use and emissions – but there are other priorities such as food waste.

  • Policy stability is recognized as critical to the energy market. We know that applies just as well to the waste and resources business, and we need to say so.

  • Energy, water, wastes and materials are all linked and we need to see this assessment “mesh” perfectly with other Government policy in development – including the Defra 25 year Environment Plan and the Industrial Strategy.

We all have a stake in this. 

All RWM customers – exhibitors, visitors or supporters – have a stake in this, whether you identify with waste, water, energy or several / all of the above. It will shape our future, so don’t miss this consultation. It closes on 12th January 2018. The document is long (214 pages) because it covers 7 priority areas, not just energy and waste. Many of us will have interests in other chapters such as transport and lower carbon fuels of the future. But, for waste and energy, it’s Chapter 4 (pp 105 – 132) that will count and the questions they want covered in consultees’ responses on pp 129 – 130. For water its Chapter 6 on pp 155 - 178

If you’re really stuck for time go for the Executive Summary on pages 16 and 17 (waste and energy) and pages 18 and 19 (drought and flooding).

Have your say by 12th January.

You can download the document from the National Infrastructure Comission website:

Congestion, Capacity, Carbon – priorities for national infrastructure