The United Kingdom government has ruled out relaxing restrictions on the use of outputs from waste treatment technologies in its revision of waste management licensing regulations (NCE 12 October 2006). This news will be expected to have a negative effect the adoption of MBT. MBT uses several processes to separate waste into its constituent parts to maximise recycling.
It had been hoped by local authority waste officers and waste experts that the new regulations would relax the rules on the residues from Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) plants from being spread on agricultural land. A number of experts have been pointing out that at the moment it is almost impossible for the products of these process to be classified as a product, and just about everything produced is still classified as a waste, despite the processing carried out.
However, Ben Bradshaw (Environment Minister) said the restriction would remain in place as a temporary safeguard against the landspreading of sub-standard wastes to agricultural land to protect the environment and human health.
According to NCE, he added: “I have, however, asked my officials to carry out further work to find a longer-term, more sustainable solution that will encourage the development of technologies, which will produce high standard outputs which could be safely spread to land.”
While caution is merited, this will inevitably in the opnion of the Waster, tend to push local authorities to opt for incineration as a waste treatment technology
Within the next two years more than a dozen Defra PFI credit approvals will be sought by large local authorities and then these tenders will be put to the market, and awarded. With most of the new contracts then set to span the next twenty years or more, the dye will be caste for waste processing for many years to come.
This means that those Local Authorities opting for MBT processes which include treatment of organics which need to be spread on land for the viability of the plant (such as composting) will be taking a high risk path.
This news will add further strength to the idea that incineration is better than MBT. This may be the right way to go, when we consider how reportedly badly China suffers from soil contamination, a proportion of which is presumably the result of organic (sewage sludge) waste to land. (See earlier item.)
Note: Views expressed by the Waster are purely personal.