Energy from waste could become worse than landfill

5th October 2020 | Recycling

Small changes in municipal waste composition could push energy from waste above landfill in generating climate change emissions, a Scottish Government funded report has found. The study also reasons that energy from waste can no longer be considered a “low carbon technology” in the UK, largely because electricity generation is becoming more decarbonised.

The technical study, for Zero Waste Scotland, reports that burning residual municipal waste in Energy from Waste plants in Scotland in 2018 had an average carbon intensity of 509 gCO2/kWh. “This is nearly twice as high as the carbon intensity of the UK marginal electricity grid average, which was 270 gCO2/kWh in 2018,” says the study.

Energy from waste

The report, “The climate change impact of burning municipal waste in Scotland” was compiled by Kimberley Pratt and Michael Lengahan and was peer reviewed. It was funded by the Scottish Government and the European Union and published on 3 October 2020. Zero Waste Scotland said that the study measures climate change impacts in two ways: carbon intensity and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Carbon intensity is a standard approach for comparing the climate change impacts of different energy generation technologies. In this study, the carbon intensity of EfW plants are compares to the UK national grid average. The results show that the carbon intensity of EfW plants is twice as high as the grid average. EfW carbon intensities would remain above the grid average even the plants were converted to Combined Heat and Power systems, demonstrating that EfW can no longer considered a low carbon technology in the UK.”

Of potentially more significance is the comparison that the report makes between landfill and energy from waste as the UK continues to drive towards the construction of energy from waste plants in an ongoing move away from landfill.

More information available on the website below