There are challenges ahead in waste management, but these can ‘open the door’ to a £10 billion investment opportunity for the private sector, according to UK Environment Minister Elliot Morley. Speaking at the recent ‘Investment Opportunities: Municipal Waste and PFI’ conference in London, he said considerable progress had been made, but greater investment was needed to meet international obligations through the EU Landfill Directive.
He highlighted the increasingly important role of the private sector, which through the Private Finance Initiative can work with local authorities to provide more effective and efficient waste solutions.
“Waste management represents a key environmental challenge for the UK,” he explained. “It is an area in which spending has grown and is set to continue to grow significantly in the coming years. This is being reflected in the extent to which waste is being pushed up the political agenda, both locally, nationally and internationally. The focus for government and Local Authorities on meeting increasingly challenging targets, both now and through time, means that we are seeing ongoing growth in what is, in many ways, a whole new business sector. This growth in demand needs to be mirrored by development of the private sector capacity, with greater investment in the collection, management and disposal of waste. Increasingly, this can be achieved through the Private Finance Initiative.
“There is clear evidence of a growing demand for PFI from local authorities, with nine waste projects having already been signed, and a further seven are in procurement. We are aware that issues such as planning application delays and public concern over health can form barriers that prevent private sector investors from getting involved in waste management projects. However, we have confidence in our current policies for local authorities to press ahead urgently with the planning applications for new waste management facilities in line with the new emphasis on minimization, re-use and recycling, as opposed to landfill,” he stated.
“Traditionally, we have relied on relatively cheap landfill, which has discouraged investment in alternatives. Now we need to learn from Europe’s ‘best performers’; we need a mix of alternatives – extensive new recycling infrastructure and new technologies to reduce the amounts of waste land filled. We want to achieve the landfill target set for 2010 but, unless waste management practices change, we won’t,” he concluded.
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