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.
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.