Tidy Planet Energy talks EfW in EWB Podcast

Tidy Planet Energy talks EfW in EWB Podcast

Article posted on 23.01.2023

Our managing director, Simon Webb, was recently invited to join ENDS Waste & Bioenergy on its fortnightly podcast, The Burning Issue.

Delving deeper into the topic of energy recovery, and the market for small-scale Energy-from-Waste (EfW) plants, the 25-minute episode saw Simon offer some excellent insight into the proximity principle, the benefits of SWIPs over larger scale facilities in diverting waste from landfill, and how Brexit has impacted the sector.

Here are 10 key takeaways to get you up to speed. You can also listen here, if you haven’t already.


  1. No two days are ever the same in the waste sector

EWB editor and podcast host, Luke Walsh, kickstarted the episode by quizzing Simon on his average working schedule at Tidy Planet.

But every day is different. Whilst sometimes our MD can be found dealing with customer enquiries behind a desk at HQ, he is equally no stranger to a pair of overalls – and often offers his assistance to organisations on-site.

“It’s this mix that makes it all so interesting,” says Simon. “Being able to actively speak to customers and see them face-to-face is miles better than the phone”.


  1. Yes, we do practice responsible waste separation at home!

Armed with an interest in all things environment and sustainability, and a passion about really making a difference, Simon first set up Tidy Planet in 2001. Fast-forward to today, and there are two distinct arms to the business – Tidy Planet Waste and Tidy Planet Energy.

And our innovative solutions for food waste and RDF/SRF have seen us work with a vast array of organisations over the years – spanning sectors from care and education to facilities management and hospitality.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Simon’s own environmental habits are equally as impressive. When asked how much effort is put into waste separation at home, he confidently asserted that it was “100%!” – from composting food waste to segregating packaging into different waste streams.

He also shared his biggest bug bear – the plastic film packaging for fruit, that can’t be recycled!


  1. Energy-from-Waste can support the ongoing energy crisis

One of the biggest challenges in the EfW industry, is trying to convey the message that we’re not trying to do any harm to the environment, but rather improve it. And whether on a small or a large scale, every organisation has the same regulations to meet – in terms of emissions and planning.

From an environmental standpoint, all EfW systems work towards a shared goal of diverting waste from landfill and unlocking its valuable resource potential.

As companies continue to feel the pain with the rising cost of energy and waste disposal – and as global legislation makes RDF more difficult and expensive to dispose of – alternative solutions that offer lower costs of energy production should be very welcomed.


  1. Small Waste Incineration Plants (SWIPs) are the future

On anything that’s using less than three tonnes per hour of fuel, permits to place systems on site can be obtained under a Small Waste Incineration Plant (SWIP) permit – carried out by the local authority at the same time as the planning application.

Because organisations are not reliant on the Environment Agency to implement smaller-scale EfW plants, Simon explains that implementation is much quicker.

One of Tidy Planet’s latest SWIP projects to hit the headlines was at Brooke Energy’s first RDF EfW site in Exeter. The largest scale able to be achieved with a SWIP, Brooke Energy’s plant deals with up to 72 tonnes of waste per day, and will help implement a more environmentally and financially sustainable energy model.


  1. Dealing with waste at source is the most sustainable solution

It’s a question we’re asked time and again here at Tidy Planet, but changing the way people view ‘waste’ is a challenging feat.

The reality is, it’s a problem we’ve created, so it should be up to us to fix it too – rather than burying It for another generation to tackle or shipping it overseas to become someone else’s responsibility.

Delving deeper into the proximity principle, Simon explores the benefits of dealing with our waste at source – including minimising cross-border movement and the number of miles material has to travel, as well as enabling locals to benefit from the heat and electricity produced from their waste. Communities are effectively sitting on gold mines.

And with ongoing regulatory issues in Scotland, this is a particularly pressing issue for the industry right now!


  1. The rise of carbon capture technology

One new technology that’s rising to prominence is carbon capture – which focuses on reducing carbon emissions from industrial process. But is cost too prohibitive for smaller-scale EfW facilities?

Potentially not, says Simon. There are a number of manufacturers who are focused on SWIPs, but Tidy Planet already has one partner tapping into carbon capture technology on the back of this.

There’s no doubt cost is certainly a consideration for organisations, but because the value is so much higher now than it was 12-18 months ago, Tidy Planet hopes to be able to absorb some of these costs and make it part of the overall package for customers.


  1. Industrial action in the sector is set to continue

Waves of strikes across waste services have been taking place throughout the year, in a bid to negotiate a fairer pay for workers.

With everyone feeling the pinch of rising energy costs and large-scale inflation, Simon thinks it’s likely that this action will continue well into 2023 – and be detrimental to the rising cost of food waste, no doubt.


  1. Will UK recycling rates ever improve?

Delving deeper into the state of play with current waste management practices, Simon remains hopeful that recycling rates will continue to rise – particularly as tech continues to advance at such pace, to support increasingly ‘busy’ schedules, which sometimes lead to material contamination.

And while it’s an excellent sign for the future of the industry that UK local authorities are moving towards separate collections of food waste, there’s still much work to be done.

Ultimately, it’s important that society realises there will always be non-recyclable residual waste – most of which occurs through contamination – and that we need a solution for dealing with it that isn’t landfill.

It’s important to ask the question, if we don’t want to use it for EfW or want to bury it, what else are we going to do with it?


  1. Why Brexit means more waste has to be incinerated from EU-to-UK flights

If waste is collected on an airline that originates in Europe – whether residual food from the trays or waste collected directly from the aircraft – it’s now classed as international catering waste (ICW). And the disposal options are extremely limited – with sites likes Gatwick investigating how materials can be separated for recycling, rather than incinerated.

But there’s still a significant amount of residue, which has substantially grown with the changes that have been enforced post-Brexit. The situation is similar for ports, which is why Tidy Planet is particularly keen to tap into this opportunity and help close the loop.


  1. The waste industry needs to clean up its act

The recruitment challenge in the waste sector is well documented, with a lack of high-level talent presenting a significant challenge. And with a proportion of individuals and organisations set on circumnavigating regulations, image remains a major problem in the drive for talent.

However, the lack of funding from the Environment Agency, coupled with its inability to enforce old and new regulations due to a lack of high-level talent, poses an even greater challenge for the industry. It’s a double-edged sword, and there’s certainly a long way to go to remedy these challenges.


If you’re interested in listening to the podcast in full, tune in via this link. Or if you’d like to find out more about Tidy Planet Energy – and our Energy-from-Waste systems for RDF, SDF, and waste wood – visit tidyplanetenergy.co.uk