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Anaerobic Digestion of food waste - DECC and Defra priority

Anaerobic digestion (AD) and food waste remain DECC and Defra priority
Thursday 08 July 2010 Organics News

Anaerobic digestion remains a priority area for the coalition government, a top Defra official confirmed yesterday (July 7).

We need to keep waste out of landfill, producing energy and digestate from food waste

Diana Linskey, Defra
Speaking at the first conference of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) in Birmingham, Diana Linskey, deputy head of waste policy at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pointed to public spending pressures but indicated ministers are still keen to see AD projects move ahead.

She confirmed that one of the big commitments by ministers on the environment was "to a huge increase in energy from waste through AD".

The coalition government's support for AD comes in the wake of work by the Labour government which also started to push AD, notably through the creation of a taskforce which has now been dissolved.

Referring to the work of the AD taskforce under the previous government, she said: "We are reviewing the actions rather than all the evidence to see if the actions are appropriate for current policies hope we won't get too much slippage. I'm sure ministers won't want to slow things up."

And, Ms Linskey revealed that "difficult issues such as the food versus fuel debate and whether there will be sufficient anaerobic digestion capacity for food waste" were among the topics tackled at the first anaerobic digestion roundtable held earlier this week.

Ms Linskey emphasised to the conference that the roundtable meeting was jointly held by her department alongside DECC, the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

She said: "This was a very important first step. It was an AD roundtable hosted very importantly by Lord Henley, our junior minister for waste and Greg Barker at DECC."

She referred to the work of the AD taskforce which under the last government drew up proposals and policy advice on AD. But, she said the new government "wanted us to look again at the actions and the scale and pace of delivery. The taskforce findings need to be played back to ministers."

AD issues under discussion by DECC and Defra

Opportunities for new plants, including jobs in the UK
Bankability requires transparency and certainty
Clarity on incentives
Security of feestock supply
Balance between incentives so as not to distort the market
Regulatory issues, concerns over permitting
Confidence in digestate
Raise awareness of benefits of AD among potential operators, customers and general public

And, Ms Linskey said that it had to be remembered that AD was nothing new. She had been appointed to head up the Whitehall taskforce on AD and the agricultural officials in Defra working on AD now reported to her. "Food waste is important but we mustn't forget agriculture and the water industry. We need to keep waste out of landfill, producing energy and digestate from food waste."

And, she said that she was "very pleased that some of our demonstrator projects are within those other industries that Marcus [Gover of WRAP] referred to this morning."

The Defra official said that it was important to recognise the contribution that the industry has also made in unblocking some of the challenges with the task force review. "This was held up to me as a good piece of work, making sure the technical nuts and bolts of AD are examined."

The two ministers at the roundtable meeting, said Ms Linskey, "wanted to sit down and hear key players and hear from them what the challenges were to the unlocking of AD in this country.

"Ministers' discussions with guests were on how to secure a huge increase in energy from waste from AD and how this could be achieved in a cost effective way. They wanted to agree the current state of the AD industry in the UK which has a lot of different interpretations and see what barriers really exist."

The meeting also looked at in what areas can costs be brought down and what actions are needed by government and by industry to realise a substantial increase in AD and how to do this in a cost effective manner, Ms Linskey added.

At the meeting there were concerns about AD capacity, she said. "This was a concern to people. I understand that there was agreement for much more plants to use waste as a feedstock, from food, sewage and farms. But more analysis is needed."

And Ms Linskey said that ministers were aware of the food versus fuel debate which is very important in determining how much energy food crops could produce through AD.

Describing AD as "a technology that wins for waste management", the Defra official said that the next steps in work by the departments would see them drawing up an action plan looking at the "economic capacity for AD" with input from industry over the summer, said Ms Linskey.

Related links

But, in terms of public spending, Ms Linskey warned delegates: "We need to discuss that plan with you, it has to be consistent too with the overarching need to reduce the deficit. Decisions on what there will be funding for in many areas won't come out until October."

Ian Nottman, head of the AD specialist team with Defra, also responded to a question from the ADBA audience, saying that his team was committed to working on AD and moving forward.

Defra WFD plans include backing for kerbside sort
Thursday 08 July 2010 Legislation News

By Nick Mann

Defra has given its strongest support to date for kerbside sorting as its preferred option for household recycling collection in a consultation document published today (July 8) on draft regulations to implement the revised EU Waste Framework Directive in England and Wales.

In the document, which has been jointly published with the Welsh Assembly Government, the department confirms its position on the Directive's requirement for separate collections of materials to be introduced by 2015. This is that both kerbside sorting and commingled collection followed by sorting at a MRF count as ‘separate'.

The consultation outlines how England and Wales plan to meet requirements of the Directive including the new legally-binding five-step waste hierarchy

Under the Directive, which must be transposed into UK law by December 12 2010, member states must set up separate collections of "at least" paper, plastic, glass and metal by 2015, as well as taking measures to ensure "high quality recycling".

But Defra and WAG qualify their position by stating that: "Defra/WAG support and endorse WRAP's assessment that kerbside sort should be preferred where this is practicable; and where this is not two streams commingled collections are preferable over single-stream collections."

The documents adds that "single stream commingled collections may be appropriate in circumstances where the other options are impracticable", further echoing conclusions drawn by WRAP in its June 2009 ‘Choosing the Right Collection System' guidance (see story). But, the consultation also stresses that the choice of system rests with individual local authorities.

The Defra position has already been seized upon by kerbside sorting advocates the Campaign for Real Recycling, whose chair, Mal Williams said: "Well done to Defra and the new coalition government for recognising that kerbside sort is more effective than MRF sort for producing high quality recyclable resources."

Existing legislation
Defra/WAG support and endorse WRAP's assessment that kerbside sort should be preferred where this is practicable; and where this is not two streams commingled collections are preferable over single-stream collections

Defra/WAG consultation document
While Defra and WAG claim that the UK has in place the "necessary laws" to comply with the requirements of the revised Directive, they explain that the regulations being consulted on are "necessary to ensure the rWFD is fully and correctly transposed in the UK".

As such the consultation details how existing legislation will be used to meet key provisos of the Directive such as the goal of achieving a 50% household waste recycling and composting rate by 2020 and a 70% target for construction and demolition waste by the same date, as well as the statutory need for all waste management activities to adhere to the new five step waste hierarchy enshrined in the Directive.

The document is the second stage of a two-stage consultation process on transposing the revised Waste Framework Directive into English and Welsh law. An earlier consultation paper was launched in July 2009 (see story).

Bottom ash
In light of the Directive's recycling targets, the consultation document outlines exactly what will be considered as ‘recycling' in an attempt to meet those goals, and reveals that, for the first time in England, recovering metals from incinerator bottom ash will count as recycling.

It explains: "Metals recovered from incinerator bottom ash will be classed in England as recycling as this waste can be reprocessed into a product suitable for uses similar to the original. This is a reversal of current Defra policy, but brings England into line with the approach taken in the rest of the UK."

This decision has been made as part of the January 2010 Defra consultation on the legal definition of waste (see story) and is likely to be warmly welcomed by waste companies such as Veolia ES which just last month called for the change to take place (see story).

Metals recovered from incinerator bottom ash will be classed in England as recycling as this waste can be reprocessed into a product suitable for uses similar to the original

Defra/WAG consultation
Defra also proposes that organic material which meets the UK's end-of-waste criteria for compost and digestate will be considered recycled, "in recognition of the fact that meeting the relevant standards confers the status of a recognised product on the material".

In terms of the waste hierarchy, Defra and WAG claim that the hierarchy's approach, which favours prevention as the best waste management option, ahead of preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery and disposal, is already being used in "many areas". But, the department explain that the hierarchy will be implemented elsewhere using a "tiered approach".

For planning decisions, they say this should involve the updating of national planning policy statements, while also requiring councils to "have regard" to the hierarchy when preparing spatial planning documents such as waste development frameworks.

Meanwhile, for environmental permitting, it proposes that new permits or "significant variations" should involve a condition being attached that requires "permit holders to take appropriate measures to minimise the waste generated by their operation and to ensure that, where waste is generated, it is treated in accordance with the hierarchy".

And, it includes a proposal for the duty of care waste transfer note, which must be used for all transfers of waste, to include an additional declaration where waste holders and producers have to certify their have taken the waste hierarchy into account in terms of how their waste is being dealt with.

The consultation document is accompanied by draft guidance - applicable to England only - detailing how the waste hierarchy can be applied to particular materials, and what support and choices are available to ensure that waste is dealt with according to the hierarchy.

Key points
Other key points made by Defra and WAG in the consultation include:

No proposals in the draft regulations for additional measures to meet the Directive's requirement for member states to encourage the separate collection of biowaste. While acknowledging that "further measures" are need here to meet the WFD's requirements, they propose these be set out in national waste policies and not the regulations;
A continued belief that the Directive's requirement for self-sufficiency of waste disposal should be applied at a national level;
There is no need to make provisions for the end-of-waste requirements of the Directive in the regulations because they have "direct effect". This refers to work that is already going on at a European level on metals and other materials to define when they cease to be waste;
A decision not to introduce further measures to promote reuse or preparing for reuse
A decision not to introduce legislative measures on extended producer responsibility, which the Directive allows member states to do.

Energy recovery formula
The consultation provides little insight into the impact that ‘R1' energy recovery formula which the Directive says should be used to decide whether waste incinerators are a recovery or disposal option could have on UK energy-from-waste plants.

But, it does detail correspondence from the European Commission which states that not all incinerators must meet the energy efficiency requirements, only those that wish to be considered recovery, while the government states that it believes what constitutes a "high level" of energy efficiency should be different from facility to facility, and not be dealt with on a blanket basis.

The consultation is open until September 16