THE WEST MIDLANDS has enough landfill and treatment facilities to handle current demands, but could need up to 176 new facilities in the near future, an ICE conference was told last month.
Consultants from consultants Golder Associates and MEL were speaking at the ICE Waste management in the West Midlands conference.
Until now, data held by the Environment Agency has lacked regional detail for treatment facilities, the conference heard.
'The problem is that landfill capacity is easy to work out, but waste treatment is much more difficult. We know throughput, but how do we work out capacity?' said MEL head of environment and waste Barbara Leech.
MEL and Golder have carried out research into the West Midlands region's strategic sites to assess physical, chemical and biological waste treatment capacity in the area.
Researchers had most difficulty with vehicle dismantlers and metal recyclers, who were least forthcoming when asked for capacity information.
ICE West Midlands regional technical and advisory board chair Bruce Braithwaite pointed out that half the waste facilities in the area were not registered by planning authorities. 'They've always been on the outside of the system, but have to be part of it now, ' he said.
Research revealed that there was 5% spare capacity in thermal treatment facilities. However, for biological treatment of aqueous waste, 60% spare capacity was found. Physical waste treatment facilities showed 15% spare capacity, but this is limited to specific types of physical treatment which might not suit all waste streams. A similar trend was discussed for chemical treatment, which is operating with 21% spare capacity.
Leach warned that as new hazardous waste legislation coming in would require pretreatment, the chemical treatment capacity could easily be used up.
However predictions made by Shropshire County Council based on 2001 capacity revealed that an eleven-fold increase in municipal waste recycling facilities would be required by 2021.
This converts to 26 new facilities required by next year alone.
The worst case scenario revealed that 176 new waste recycling and treatment facilities could be needed by next year.