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Last edited 27 Dec 2020
Energy from waste
To some these incredibly difficult challenges at times appear at odds with one another.
But deploying energy from waste (EfW) more widely can quickly make a significant positive contribution – particularly if industry can help policy-makers overcome some of the many misconceptions around the sector.
The UK faces an acute shortage of waste treatment capacity, now and in the future, which is why landfilling of residual waste remains prevalent in the UK. We need more infrastructure to process residual (municipal and commercial) waste in the future.
Industry’s priority must be to help policy-makers recognise that action is required, particularly as we move away from landfill while avoiding paying more and more taxpayer’s money for waste to be sent abroad for processing.
EfW and recycling operate together very effectively in other countries, particularly when policy-makers are supportive of EfW technology that has proved capable, at scale, of processing lower ‘quality’ waste, i.e. after everything that is recyclable has been taken out.
On a national level, EfW contributed 5.57 TWh of baseload electricity. That’s enough to power around 1.8 million homes, filling the gaps around renewable sources when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
And it could do so much more. Under the right policy framework it could process the waste currently going to landfill or sent abroad as refuse derived fuel, EfW could provide an additional 7.63 TWh, enough to power 15% of UK housing stock.
Policy-makers need to recognise the value of the ash produced as part of the EfW process. At Cory, we produce 200,000 tonnes of recycled ash that is used as aggregate in the UK’s buildings and roads. That is 200,000 tonnes that is not being mined out of the UK countryside.
This could not be further from the truth.
Cory's Riverside plant provides some of the cleanest levels of emissions of any EfW plant in the UK. The plant operates well within emission limit values and emissions are improving year on year. In terms of air quality emissions, a walk around the facility will be enjoyed in cleaner air than London’s Hyde Park.
We are also able to further reduce emissions through our use of the River Thames to transport waste to our plant. By using our fleet of tugs and barges we can remove 100,000 truck journeys from roads each year and save around 13,500 tonnes of carbon. A further 149,000 tonnes of CO2 is saved annually by not sending the waste to landfill.
 Taking action
We need well-functioning EfW facilities to deliver the low carbon economy. For this to happen, industry needs to work harder to communicate the benefits of transforming waste into energy, and rebutting the often harmful assertions that EfW is the villain of the piece.
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