Taking Resources Forward webinar series: 1 down and 3 to go!

Written by: Kath Warren & Dr Adam Read | Published:
Dr Adam Read, practice director for resource efficiency & waste management @ Ricardo Energy & Environment

Kath Warren & Adam Read of Ricardo reflect on this new series of webinars and look back at their first session which focused on energy from waste.

Earlier this year we announced our new partnership with Recycling & Waste World, one of the sector’s leading journals, aimed at providing topical, up-to-date content for their readers. Our first project as their technical partner was to put together a programme of webinars which addresses some of the sector’s hottest topics, both for a UK and a more international audience and focused primarily on local authorities and their contractors.

The first of our webinars in this series was ‘EfW Risks and Solutions’ which we hosted on 10 May 2017. This was a real success with over 100 delegates joining for the hour-long discussion, and with a good mix of insightful questions (both pre-event and during the session) and lively debate between our expert speakers, on this occasion Ricardo Energy & Environment’s principal consultant Kathryn Warren and our invited guest speaker, Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical development director at SUEZ. If you are interested in listening to the 60-minute discussion you can register here and listen on-line.

Keen to make the webinar as engaging and informative for listeners as possible, brief presentations were made to set the scene and provide context, with the majority of the time being dedicated to an interactive question & answer session.

Our audience were invited to submit questions both in advance and live during the webinar, where the chair (Dr Adam Read) helped to select the right blend of questions to keep the debate flowing. The speakers answered as many questions as they could during the hour, and it was clear from the questions that there were some common themes and topics of interest to the audience. Those that could not be answered on the day receive an email a few days later with short responses wherever appropriate, ensuring that the participants felt they got real value from the session.

As expected, there were several questions relating to the viability of advanced thermal conversion (ACT), and in particular if technologies such as gasification could be successful without fiscal incentives. Both our speakers agreed that while it would be more challenging without incentives, these types of projects could be viable if other drivers were a factor.

The recently reported failures of some ACT projects also emphasised the importance of robust technical and commercial due diligence. However, there was a lot of interest in the flexibility that technologies such as gasification can provide - for example converting syngas to transport fuels or gas to grid injection. This stimulated a discussion around whether the government’s focus and it’s incentives for waste treatment are wrongly targeted on conventional waste to energy, in particular as non-CHP EfW projects are often considered low efficiency. Could the market for gas to grid via gasification benefit from further support?

A further suite of questions highlighted the importance of waste composition and feedstock due diligence, for example would gasification work on waste from which all recyclables have been removed? If you are interested in the answer then check out the webinar link above and listen in!

Small scale EfW

A number of questions were also asked about the role of small scale EfW. Kathryn highlighted that small scale EfW will always be more expensive, as many of the costs associated with an EfW, i.e. planning, infrastructure and roads, abatement systems etc, will not decrease with scale. However, there are often non-cost drivers which make small scale EfW plants feasible and desirable.

With a UK and international audience consisting of investors, local authorities, regulators and technology providers, it was clear from the question asked that there is still a huge interest in EfW in the UK, despite some reports suggests that the UK market is reaching capacity. Stuart summarised the session well by explaining that the UK EfW market is impacted on by regional markets, prices and solutions. There are also national and devolved policies, market drivers and constraints which need to be understood by investors and developers before sinking too much time, effort and cost into a project.

Upcoming hot topics

The next webinar in the series is likely to be even more of a hot topic. On 14 June we will be focussing on three-weekly collections, to examine how extending the frequency of residual waste collection has been gaining increasing momentum in recent years across the UK. At present the number of local authorities providing three weekly residual waste collections is well into double figures. Most of these authorities have based their decisions on increasing recycling levels and delivering financial savings, which are now being realised. This webinar will look at our own independent research and share the insights from authorities who have pioneered this transition.

In what is sure to be a very popular session, Ricardo lead expert Brian Mayne will examine the scene today – and look at who pioneered three-weekly collections, how they did so and the driving forces behind these step changes to collections. While demonstrated to work, understanding the threats and opportunities associated with extending the frequency collections of collections will be key, in order to understand the likely impacts for authorities, contractors & residents, Ricardo will be joined by guest speakers from the public and private sector who will bring their own perspective to the debate, while the webinar will be chaired by Dr Adam Read once again, ensuring the hot questions get adequate air time! If you are interested in learning more than please register here.

Four further webinars

This session will then be followed by four further webinars, which you can register your interest for now:

  • Making waste data work for local authorities, in association with ISB Global (10.30 – 11.30am, 20 June 2017). This webinar will help you learn more about how to save time, better monitor performance and identify efficiencies by improving the collection and analysis of your waste data.
  • Local authorities and their role in driving forward the circular economy (11.00 – 12 noon, 29 June 2017). The potential advantages and benefits of the circular economy will be debated in a ‘Question time’ style online debate, chaired by Ricardo practice director Adam Read with a panel comprising Lee Marshall, chief executive of LARAC, Wayne Hubbard, chief operating officer at LWARB, Sarahjane Widdowson, principal consultant at Ricardo and Katie Thomas, circular economy project officer at Opportunity Peterborough.
  • City strategies and managing waste effectively in transition economies (11.00 – 12 noon, 20 September 2017). This webinar will provide case study examples of our work with cities and the process that city leaders have gone through to ensure appropriate access to waste management services.
  • Real world circular economy solutions (7 November 2017). Ricardo will be sharing practical insights from their work developing circular economy business models across a wide range of industry sectors. We will be joined by Blackwood Group to reflect on why procurement is fundamental to the circular economy, and the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre to consider the opportunities available through better utilisation of bioresources.

Sign up now to join in and be part of ‘Taking Resources Forward

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