In the UK, using landfills is steadily in decline in favour of alternative processes and infrastructure used to manage solid waste. Adding to the pressure are the low recycling prices and pound devaluation. The waste sector, as an industry, is feeling the pressure from the changing market environment. Moreover, it is now more challenging to export waste due to Brexit.

Is there hope for the waste industry?

In a nutshell, the UK’s waste market is one of the largest in the world. Every year, there are about 165 million tonnes of waste collected. The industry also employs approximately 140,000 people. Fortunately, there appears to be an increase in waste collection after many years of steady decline. The increase is due to a better economy, more households, and an increasing population.

The waste management industry also appears to be moving in a different direction. There is much interest in the potential of using recyclable waste as an alternative source of fuel. Some of the top providers also appear to be increasing their foothold at a steady pace. As such, the seemingly positive future of the industry also bodes well for other businesses. There will be an ongoing demand for facilities and equipment, and RCV sales will also continue to increase.

Top sources of pressure

Although the market appears to be steady, there are still some pressures that impact commercial, residential, and industrial waste collection. For example, municipal councils are opting for in-house collection and disposal as a means to reduce overall costs.

Recycling prices also do not appear to be heading in a favourable direction anytime soon. As such, it puts more significant pressure on waste collection. This concern is especially true for municipal councils that rely on the value of recyclables for long-term contracts. As a result, many recycling contractors are doing their best to get out of these contracts to prevent further losses.

Uncertainties with policy

The vote on Brexit is undoubtedly fuelling the uncertainty about the future of the waste industry. In the past, most of the policies were dictated by the EU. Existing environmental regulations will likely remain. But the government may have a long-term vision for the industry after Brexit, which is yet uncertain.

Another challenge to overcome is the pound’s weakness and how it will affect refuse-derived fuel exporters. Since most of these export contracts are Euro-denominated, currency depreciation has raised the cost and impacted the bottom line.

The key is to develop alternative waste treatment methods and facilities

The ultimate goal of the UK government is to focus on alternative waste treatment facilities. These facilities are using new technology, such as mass burning and mechanical bio-treatment. Many of these government-initiated projects were successful, but a few have met delays and other challenges. Unfortunately, when one of these projects encounters an issue, it is a costly problem that is hard to recover from.

Despite these concerns, similar projects continue to receive funding. There is also a general agreement among major waste management companies that more of these alternative waste facilities are necessary.




Published by Mohsin Ahsan