Energy-from-waste (EfW) has a key role to play in the transition to net zero, a think tank has concluded.
On 16 July, Policy Connect published No Time to Waste: Resources, recovery & the road to net zero, in which it called for non-recyclable waste to be viewed as a valuable resource for producing low carbon heat and energy, rather than burying or exporting it, following the lead of other European economies. The report, which has the support of a group of 13 cross-party MPs, said that while not a perfect long-term solution for residual waste, EfW is the “best available technology” and one that can play a key role in helping the UK to build back better following the impact of COVID-19.
According to the report, if 80% of residual waste went to EfW by 2030, it would result in enough low carbon heat to support over half a million homes and lead to 4mn tonnes of CO2 emissions being avoided by displacing landfill. These savings were noted as likely being higher once offsetting from heat utilisation is factored in. Further highlighting EfW’s potential, the report said the current £280mn national spend on exporting waste could, instead, be used to build 10 state-of-the-art plastic recycling facilities in the UK each year, leading to hundreds of regional jobs.
It called on government to play a greater role when it comes to realising the opportunities presented by energy-from-waste, working collaboratively with industries and local government to determine suitable sites and potential heat customers. Government was also told to “clearly” set out the future of EfW and provide a stable, long-term, ambitious policy framework to ensure certainty for the infrastructure investment needed.