Energy from Waste

From my recent exploration into climate issues and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), I have come across a potential solution which I had never heard of before (though not particularly new). It’s called Energy from Waste and basically involves the incineration of non-recyclable landfill waste, or biomass, and produces energy with the potential to provide heat and electricity to nearby homes.

This has been suggested as a mitigation effect for the Scotlands 2012 landfill ban which was set to come into place by 2025. Despite sounding like a slightly crazy idea, not only could it remove waste from landfills which can often end up polluting the environment, but according to SEPA, Energy from Waste has the potential to provide up to 31% of Scotland’s renewable energy.

Zero Waste Scotland reported that 80% of the carbon footprint in Scotland relates to our consumption and waste of goods. So, considering the vast amounts of waste produced not only in Scotland but also worldwide, burning it to create something useful seems like a pretty good idea.

Figure 1. Diagram of the processes involved in Energy from Waste solution.

It is up to local authorities to take action on this, and there are many examples of places which have a plan set in place. In Markinch, there is a large combined heat and power biomass plant which is the biggest of its kind in the UK. The biomass used to fuel the plant is sustainably sourced and results in a reduction of 250,000 tons of CO2 per year, rather than the wood composting and emitting its CO2 (from RWE). Further north, in Moray and Aberdeenshire, there has been the development of an Energy from Waste plant, however, this one will burn local waste. Figure 1 shows the various steps involved in the Energy from waste process, from the collection of waste to output of energy and collection of ash.

Overall, the potential for Energy from Waste is very promising. If it is combined with CCS, it is a perfect solution for getting rid of waste from landfills, providing renewable energy and reducing carbon from the atmosphere. Deployment across the country would be a huge step forward in meeting climate and waste removal targets.

Can Climate Change Back?

It is no news to anyone in the world that greenhouse gas emissions have been increasing rapidly since the beginning of the industrial revolution. This has resulted in global temperatures increasing faster than ever before, causing extreme weather including droughts, floods, rising temperatures and severe storms. Despite this realisation, very little action has been taken to mitigate the effects of climate change. COP26 occurred in Glasgow in 2021 in an effort to raise awareness and find solutions and policies to encourage change, yet almost nothing has changed since.



  • Fossil fuels – the extraction and burning of fossil fuels to generate heating and electricity have seen the largest emissions, and added to this is the emissions from the production of goods using these fossil fuels.
  • Deforestation – by cutting down vast areas of trees, such as in the Amazon, large amounts of CO2 are released into the atmosphere.
  • Food production – obviously we all have to eat to live, but the emissions from the production of our food have a huge impact on climate change.
  • Transportation – a huge contributor to emissions comes from the very way we all move around and travel the world, from cars to planes to ships.



  • Carbon Capture and Storage – one of the many things we need to begin doing is capturing the carbon emissions from industries before they are released into the atmosphere.
  • Renewable energy – although it will take a while, switching to renewable energy is a crucial factor in reducing our emissions and making use of natural sources we can use for power.
  • Less transport – a smaller step people can take in their daily lives is making an effort to get public transport, walk or cycle to reduce emissions from cars.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle – it’s something we have all heard before, but now more than ever it is important to minimise waste, recycle what you can and shop sustainably, locally and second-hand.


In order to meet the many climate targets set by governments across the world, a huge effort will have to be made, but sadly, from what is occurring now, the targets don’t seem likely to be met. However, the targets are still essential to have in place to encourage and remind people what could and should be achieved. Previous major extinction events have shown that the world is likely to recover from the mistakes we have made, but we might not be here to see it.

Carbon Capture and Storage: What’s the catch?

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is the process of capturing CO2 emissions from various sources, before separating and purifying it from the admixture of gas. The purified CO2 is transported via pipeline or ship to the geological storage location. This could be offshore in empty oil and gas fields or injected into basaltic rocks to store permanently. Figure 1 below illustrates these processes.

Figure 1. A schematic diagram of the processes of CCS.

Despite this technology sounding like the ideal solution for removing the detrimental levels of emissions the world has contributed to the atmosphere, it has been developing for many decades and yet it has still not taken off on a large scale. This is due to a number of factors, but mostly due to the lack of incentive for anyone to do it. CCS costs money, like everything else, and without the government putting any policies in place to make capturing carbon a necessity for industries, they are probably not going to do it.

Another factor in the development of CCS is public acceptance. Although many people see the positive side of the technology and support it, many people do not. A quick google of CCS and you can immediately see both sides of the story, with news articles, papers and tweets for and against it.

It seems that the issue many people have with CCS is from an environmental point of view, as they think that the main goal of CCS is to prolong the lifetime of oil and gas extraction. CCS can make use of decommissioned oil and gas pipelines, wells and platforms, but only when it is completely out of use. Many people have been protesting the development of pipelines with intended use for CCS in the USA according to a recent news article written for Reuters. They claim it is allowing the continual development of oil and gas and could be a potential health threat, or could damage the land.

While these are understandable concerns, the bottom line is that there are not many options left to undo the damage to the planet, and if we don’t start removing emissions from the atmosphere now it may become irreversible if it hasn’t already. The potential of prolonging oil and gas exploration is obviously another impact but it is not the reason for CCS development. In fact, oil and gas are still going to be required for many years until renewable energy is able to fully take over as a worldwide, domestic and commercial energy source, so if CCS is able to reduce the impact of it then the sooner it is accepted and developed on a large-scale, the better.

A picture is worth a thousand words

Infographics are an essential part of communicating relatively general information on a subject for an educational purpose or even to inform people within the government on a topic. It can act as a summary of a piece of writing or can provide a general overview of a subject. They are often used as part of a larger document to get key information across clearly.

Features of an infographic:

Many features come together to create an infographic, and they can be crucial to the clarity and use of the poster. This includes things such as the layout which depends on where the infographic is intended to be seen as they can be found in a range of locations, such as digitally on a phone screen – which would be best-displayed portrait with thin columns, or on a computer screen – which would be best horizontal. Infographics are also commonly found printed in magazines or newspapers, or even just as a poster, which also affects the style in which they are presented.


Colour is a crucial part of any poster, allowing it to be eye-catching and attractive, but with the wrong use of colour, it could be the opposite. Sticking to only a few colours would make for a better poster, ensuring these colours complement each other. The use of bright colours together is not usually a good idea, especially not a bright background. The image below also shows clearly the effect of having dark writing against a dark background or light writing against a light background.

Figure 1. Example of coloured text against backgrounds which make it hard to read.

Layout and text

The information in a poster should flow with ease, with a layout which makes sense to the reader as to what should be read next. There should also be minimum writing in each section, and bullet points should be used to keep it simple and readable. If there is too much writing, no one is going to read it. The font size shouldn’t be too small either, especially if it is to be printed off as there won’t be an option to zoom in.


It is important not to overwhelm a poster with unnecessary data, so only include essential graphs etc. Data should also be presented in a simplistic way, to make it as easy to read and understand as possible.

Overall, it is important for the quality of the infographic that all the features are considered and combined to produce a well-presented, educational and enjoyable poster. This will maximise the reader’s interest and therefore the number of people who read it.

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