The preference for supporting recycling over incineration comes from Alan Lovell DL, who has been chosen by the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, to be the Agency’s next chairman, subject to final confirmation.
Mr Lovell, who has first-hand knowledge of the costs of incineration, landfill and anaerobic digestion in his corporate career, also strongly opposed the export, saying it was “absolutely wrong” to export the waste.
He is set to succeed Emma Howard Boyd – whose second term in office ends in September – and was nominated for the post by headhunters, having been shortlisted for the position six years ago when the current chair was elected.
Mr Lovell, 68, was speaking last week at a pre-appointment hearing held by Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) and Environmental Audit (EAC) Committees. The Boards approved his appointment.
Speaking to board members that he was a strong advocate of the circular economy, Mr Lovell said he wanted to make two points about waste.
“When it comes to waste, I think we need to review the financial incentives to mitigate that,” he said. “We have financial incentives to favor incineration over landfill, which is appropriate. We should definitely have some form of financial incentive to more strongly encourage recycling and other aspects over incineration. That’s point one.”
It is completely wrong for us to export waste
– Alan Lovell DL
The incoming chairman followed up with another point, saying: “The Environment Agency has spent some time looking at waste, particularly things that are sent overseas. In my personal opinion, it is completely wrong for us to export waste. We should address it, and there are several advantages to it.”
Mr Lovell has first-hand experience of the cost of energy from waste (EfW) as Chairman of Interserve plc. In 2019, the company was the subject of a £72m claim from Viridor and its then-parent company Pennon over the delayed Glasgow energy recovery facility, which was being built by Interserve (see letsrecycle.com story).
Coincidentally, last week, Viridor – now owned by investment firms KKR and Equitix – outlined the need for EfW – described as burning by the Agency’s next chairman – to benefit from government recognition of green finance (see letsrecyle.com story).
While most of Mr Lovell’s questions at the EFRA board related to his work as a “turnaround specialist” and the water sector, he also told the board about his previous involvement in the waste sector.
Mr Lovell said: “As you know, I got involved in the renewable energy business in 2006. It was owned by Terra Firma, the first. He was one of the sponsors of Al Gore’s visit to Great Britain in 2006 [documentary film] An inconvenient truth. I was one of about 80 trained to be a presenter An inconvenient truthand I did that about 30 times.”
The company in 2006 was Infinis, which as part of the Landfill Gas Waste Recycling Group was spun off when the rest of the group was bought by Spain’s FCC Group for £1.4bn that year. Mr Lovell noted that he had “acquired and integrated a 40MW landfill gas company” and that “Infinis was listed as an FT-SE 250 in 2013”.
Mr Lovell gained knowledge of the anaerobic digestion sector as chairman of Tamar Energy, which had several plants including one in Hampshire.
He simultaneously served as CEO and President, before stepping down as CEO in 2014 (see letsrecycle.com story).