Specialist waste management firm Remsol has launched a policy paper in which it says that a focus on renewable energy such as solar and wind could put recycling businesses at risk.
The company calls instead for an expansion of energy supply from extracting shale gas, supplemented with renewable gas from landfills and anaerobic digestion as well as burning more refuse derived fuel for energy in the UK rather than exporting it to Europe.
Remsol’s Powering the Circular Economy: Why the Right Energy Policy is Vital to Success says that meeting the energy demands of the recycling sector through wind, wave and solar is unlikely due to three key reasons. These it says are:
Solar, wave and wind can’t react to sudden peaks in demand that are a feature of recycling processes
Only supply electricity whereas many recycling processes rely on gas
Power output can vary significantly from these technologies and can at times be absent altogether.
The paper warns that there is a risk that UK-based recyclers will need to relocate to other countries with lower energy costs and a more favourable environment unless energy policy changes.
It notes that in the last five years, UK primary aluminium capacity has shrunk by 323,000 tonnes as a result of the closure of two large smelting factories with owners blaming rising energy costs linked to energy policy.
Remsol managing director Lee Petts said: “This paper shows how a circular economy built on recycling an increasing quantity of waste requires access to enough of the right kind of energy, where and when it’s needed, around the clock and every day of the year.
“It’s also clear that, in order to achieve our wider sustainability goals, we need to accept the continuing importance of fossil fuel sources in powering many of our recycling processes.
“The UK has a booming recycling industry. It would be a great shame to see that undermined by well-intentioned but otherwise counter-productive policy choices.”