Energy From Waste
- Unrecyclable waste can provide a valuable source of local energy through Energy from Waste (EfW)
- The UK lags far behind Western European countries in its current EfW capacity
- More EfW can help with the UK’s twin problems of diminishing landfill and expensive imports of energy
- More EfW will not hinder increased recycling
- There’s no credible evidence of EfW emissions affecting health
The Plastic Industry’s Waste Management Hierarchy
The British Plastics Federation does not want used plastics to be littered or thrown into landfill. It is a valuable resource and should be recycled. Recycling of used plastics is rising fast in the UK. Approximately 33% of plastic bottles from households were recycled in 2007 represnting a 15% increase on the previous year.
Used plastics can be recycled up to six times but when it is no longer economic or environmental to recycle them, then they should have their energy recovered through Energy from Waste (EfW) incineration and provide much needed home grown power.
The UK’s Past Legacy
- Cheap and abundant landfill
- Cheap and abundant energy
- Result very little UK EfW capacity
The UK for a population of 61.4 million has only 24 EfW plants whereas environmentally conscious Denmark has 32 EfW plants for a population of 5 million.
The Reality Now
Landfill is almost full in Essex (used by London) and Warwickshire
and costs are rising fast. The former rose by £8 to £32 a tonne this year
The UK since 2005 is a net importer of energy, leading to huge cost increases for households and businesses
The UK incinerates with energy recovery only 10% of municipal waste. The European average is 30.4%. Switzerland has 78% EfW and Germany 72%
Only seven years landfill capacity is left in England and Wales
EfW emissions strictly controlled
- With stringent EFW emission limits the potential for impact on health is extremely small
- UK EfW plants contributed to 0.8% of the total regulated dioxin emission compared with domestic heating 19.4%; iron and steel industry 13.1%
- UK EfW plants accounted for 0.2% of UK NOx emissions compared to road transport 44.5%
- Estimates suggest that a 15 minute London Millennium firework display equalled 120 years of dioxin emissions from one of London’s two EfW plants, SELCHP
- Waste going to EfW prevents harm from landfill methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas
- The UK Government’s ‘Waste Strategy for England 2007’ saw ‘no credible evidence of adverse health outcome’ from EfW emissions
SELCHP ERF, Dartford, London
SELCHP can take up to 420,000 tonnes of household waste per annum, directly from residents of four London boroughs - Lewisham, Greenwich, Westminster and Bromley. The plant converts non-recyclable waste into electricity which generates 30 MW to the National Grid.
SELCHP manages the waste in a sustainable way, achieving a number of key environmental goals. One tonne of municipal solid waste is equivalent to 1/3 tonne of coal, so the facility has a significant role to play in reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Waste is diverted from landfill, helping London meet government and European Directive targets
European experience of the Benefits of Energy from Waste
- The annual amount of energy generated from EfW in Western Europe is equivalent to the electricity demand of Switzerland.
- Just 10% of pre-sorted EU municipal waste would cover 5% of EU energy needs, saving up to 14 million tonnes of oil a year
- In Europe increased EfW has not curbed increased Recycling. It has diverted waste from landfill where methane has 20 times the impact on global warming than CO2
- In a survey of 97 European EfW plants, 87 reached a recovery energy efficiency rate of + 50%
- In July 2008 the German Federal Environment Agency stated that countries with high Energy from Waste capacity have maintained high recycling rates. In Germany EfW saves 4 million tonnes of CO2 annually
= 13.4 million tonnes
= 65% recycled
= 26% EfW
= 8% landfilled
Danish EfW plants provide all electricity and heat for 430,000 households, about 16% of the population.
A Tale of Two Cities
|London: Population 7 million
- Recycling rate 22%
- Landfilled waste 53%
- EfW 22% (only 2 plants)
- Essex landfills used by London are almost full – Sussex politicians refuse to take London’s Waste
|Copenhagen: population 1 million
- Recycling rate 61%
- Landfilled waste 4%
- Energy from Waste 35%
- 30% of district heating comes from EfW, saving 36 road tankers of fuel a day
Examples of European EfW facilities
|Knudmose, Herning, Denmark
This EfW/CHP plant processes 40,000 tonnes of waste per annum
It serves the 50,000 population of Herning and being CHP, has 85% efficiency
School and community groups are encouraged to visit
This EfW plant processes 180,000 tonnes of waste a year from 35 municipalities
It provides electricity and district heating with a total plant efficiency of 90%
Outstanding architecture was required and schools and community groups are welcome to visit and receive a presentation
- Being CHP the plant has 85% efficiency and services the 300,000 inhabitants of Aarhus with district heating and energy
- School and community groups are encouraged to visit
- This EFW/CHP plant processes 240,000 tonnes of waste and generates 19mw of electricity per annum
Spittelau, Vienna, Austria
- This EfW plant processes 260,000 tonnes of waste a year of which used plastic is 23-26,000 tonnes.
- With other plants Spittelau is providing District Heating to one third of Viennese homes: 250,000 flats, also 5,200 major customers
- The Spittelau plant with its unique Hundertwasser artistic design is only 3km from St Stephen’s Cathedral.
- Two EFW plants process 400,000 tonnes of waste a year
- They produce 950,000 MWh in hot water for district heating and 145,000 MWh of electricity per annum
- The combined annual energy production saves about 100,000 tonnes of oil
- The newer Sysav plant was designed by architects Holm and Grut
- This new EFW plant processes 460,000 tonnes of waste a year and is two thirds constructed underground
- The waste comes from one million residents in West Paris and twenty nearby towns
- It provides heating and hot water for 182,000 residents also hospitals, schools, businesses and museums including the Musée D’Orsay, within a 15km radius
- The energy generated saves 110,000 tonnes of oil and reduces CO2 emissions by 330,000 tonnes per annum.
- The original EfW plant processes 900,000 tonnes of waste a year
- It provides electricity to all Amsterdam’s municipal buildings including the music hall, the tram system, sewage works and public lighting
- Their new EfW plant of 530,000 tonnes a year provides 25,000 households with energy via District Heating
- Integration with the sewage plant means 100,000 tonnes a year of sewage sludge being processed. It accepts biogas and delivers back both heat and electricity.
- 3,300 visitors from community groups visited the plant in 2005
UK Government policy and progress on Energy from Waste
- The Government’s ‘Waste Strategy for England 2007’ intended to ‘incentivise efforts to reduce re-use, recycle waste and recover energy from waste.’
- The Strategy sets a modest target for EfW to account for 25% of municipal waste by 2020 compared to 10% now.
- The Strategy states that ‘Recovering energy from waste which cannot sensibly be reused and or recycled is an essential component of a well balanced energy policy. Denmark for instance derives 3.6% of its electricity supply from municipal waste.’ (In fact EfW supplies 16% of its population with electricity and heat)
- The Strategy says ‘a vigorous energy from waste policy is compatible with high recycling rates.’
- The Strategy recognises EfW’s contribution to energy supply, ‘Generating energy from waste has benefits for the security of energy supply, since we ‘make’ our own waste and can therefore reduce our dependence on foreign fuel suppliers.’
- The Government’s Energy White Paper – ‘Meeting the Energy Challenge’ published in 2007 states: ‘Energy generated either directly from waste or through the use of a refuse derived fuel has benefits for security of supply.’
The UK has been a net importer of energy since 2005 and a victim of huge price increases and endangered security of supply. Our ageing nuclear capacity must be replaced by 2020. We can only store 5% of our natural gas needs whereas France and Germany can each store 20%. Energy from Waste takes our unrecyclable waste away from diminishing landfill and converts it into home grown local energy avoiding expensive imports.
Although there are thirty two planning applications submitted for new EfW plants in the UK, planning approval is exceptionally slow. It took 15 years for the Belvedere, Kent EfW proposal to be approved. Many of the proposals will probably be turned down and the Government is only proposing to fast track large EfW plants producing more than 50 megawatts with its proposed Independent Planning Commission: EfW facilities of all sizes are urgently needed.
The Government has thus far failed to provide strong leadership in explaining to the public the benefits of EfW and encouraging local authorities and investors to get involved.
Some examples of current UK EfW plants existing and proposed
- This EfW plant opened in 2007.
- Processes 165,000 tonnes of waste a year
- Produces 17 MW of electricity for 22,000 homes.
- Recycling in Hampshire is currently at 33% and diversion from landfill 85%
- This EfW plant processes 500,000 tonnes a year.
- It produces 35MW of power enough for 60,000 homes
- Upgraded Sheffield EfW plant opened in 2007
- Processes 135,000 tonnes of waste a year
- Provides over 22,6000 homes with electricity
- Provides 140 buildings with heat
- Responsible for Sheffield sending less than 15% of waste to landfill
Belvedere, Kent (being built)
- This EfW plant will process 585,000 tonnes of waste
- Two thirds of waste from London – transported on river Thames
- Will generate 62MW of electricity enough for 66,000 homes
Weston Point, Cheshire (proposed)
BPF member Ineos has proposed building an EFW/CHP plant at Runcorn in Cheshire. This plant would be able to process 850,000 tonnes of solid recovered fuel (SRF) each year taken from local authorities by rail and water. The plant will generate up to 100 MW of electricity and 140 tonnes of steam for use at Ineos’s Runcorn site, providing them with 20% of their total energy needs.
Ref: PD/19th Feb 2011