Markets lead to large MRF gate fee hike

Markets lead to large MRF gate fee hike
The median cost of sending waste to material recovery facilities (MRFs) has increased by 316 per cent in the past year, according to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

In its annual Gate Fees Report, for 2015/16 WRAP reports that local authorities sending four or more materials to MRFs are now paying a median of £25 per tonne, compared to the £6 per tonne reported last year.

WRAP reports that its annual review of alternative waste management costs found that gate fees across most technologies had remained ‘pretty stable’ since 2014/15. Fees for the use of MRFs, however, increased significantly, mainly, WRAP suggests, as a result of changes in commodity markets and end market prices for recovered materials. Of the authorities supplying responses to the survey, five per cent reported a decrease and 40 per cent an increase in gate fees.

The range of gate fees at MRFs is much wider than those for other technologies. Some local authorities reported that they receive up to £62 per tonne for materials sent to MRFs, while at the other end of the scale, others said that they paid up to £89 per tonnes to their MRF. This substantial range (£151 per tonne) is greater than that reported by WRAP last year, where the highest income recorded by a local authority was £43. 

According to WRAP, a total of 30 local authorities (28 per cent of those involved in the review) either pay no gate fees or receive payment from their MRFs for materials. This figure is down from the 33 councils that reported the same last year.

The most common amount paid by councils to their MRFs is £0-5, though when only taking contracts that started in 2015 into account, this increases to £20-25. The median for these contracts is also higher (£38), while no local authorities that started new contracts in 2015 receive an income for their MRF input material, with gate fees ranging from £3-89.

A survey of the 122 participating local authorities found that 98 (80 per cent) expect MRF gate fees to increase in the future. This expectation is based on market prices for sale of recovered materials and the quality of input material. They also confirmed the need for increased risk sharing due to falling commodity prices and increasing contamination issues.

WRAP has produced an interactive infographic showing the results and the regional variations in gate fees. In England, the median MRF fee increased by £15 per tonne, compared to £3 in Wales, £5 in Scotland and £42 in Northern Ireland.

Other treatment fees

The median gate fee for energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities is now £86, the same as it was last year. Local authorities using facilities constructed after 2000 are paying a much higher rate than those using pre-2000 sites, however, with a median of £95 compared to £58. The fee for the earlier sites has fallen from £73 per tonne, though WRAP suggests that the difference appears to be due to differences in the sample response (i.e. local authorities reporting figures this year that did not report last year) rather than a move in the market. Fees for pre-2000 facilities range from £22-90, while later ones come in between £65-131.

WRAP reports that recent market changes, particularly those in England, have led to an increase in the range of anaerobic digestion (AD) gates fees, though the median fee has remained the same (£40 per tonne).

In 2014/15 gate fees paid by local authorities for collected household food waste treated at AD facilities ranged from £11-60. Some local authorities, however, have indicated that in 2015/16 they paid as low as £0 per tonne and as high as £75 per tonne. Moreover, for contracts signed in 2014 or 2015, the median gate fee has fallen to £25 per tonne. This could be due to increasing competition from AD faiclities in some regions.

Gate fees for other organics treatment remain level with previous years. The median gate fee for open air windrow composting of green waste, where biodegradable waste is piled in long rows that are gradually turned, stayed at £24 per tonne, the same price that has been recorded in WRAP’s previous three surveys. In-vessel composting, which confines the composting materials within a building, container, or vessel, recorded a slightly higher fee (£47 per tonne) than the previous two years (£46 per tonne).

The median fee paid for recycling and recovery of waste wood (all grades) collected at household waste recycling centres has remained the same as last year, at £35 per tonne. The median gate fee for treatment of waste at mechanical biological treatment (£85) facilities is slightly below that in the previous survey (£88).

Summary of UK gate fees 2015/16 (£/tonne)

The updated report into gate fees in the UK for 2015/16 can be downloaded from WRAP’s website.