Burning Waste – The Answer To Domestic Heating?

A new report has suggested that diverting the 27.5 million tonnes of non-recyclable waste that the UK creates each year for green heat could help support over half a million homes come the year 2030, as well as avoiding four million tonnes of carbon emissions over the next ten years.

Thinktank Policy Connect’s white paper issues the call for a new Scandinavian approach to policy, including bringing a halt to the shipping of non-recyclable waste overseas, prioritising investment into energy from waste infrastructure, minimising the amount of waste going to landfill and removal of all plastics from the residual waste stream, Energy Live News reports.

The report – supported by 13 cross-party MPs – emphasises the importance of widespread employment of plants that can convert waste into energy, necessary in order to create a circular and sustainable waste policy that reduces expensive shipping of waste abroad, while simultaneously heating and powering homes.

The foreword to the report reads: “As the UK embarks on our Build Back Better movement, we must no longer simply bury or export the problem.

“Instead, we should, as other European economies do, treat residual waste as a valuable resource to produce lower carbon heat and energy, alongside a focus on achieving our important recycling targets and investing in innovative recycling technology.”

It goes on to say while energy from waste may not be the best long-term solution for residual waste but it forms a vital part of the net zero transition that the UK now faces before 2050.


How does energy from waste work?

Moving towards a circular economy seems like a wise decision when you consider that the world’s resources are finite and demand will soon start to outstrip supply.

Growing public awareness of the effects of waste and a rejection of the throwaway culture that has gradually become the norm means that more and more people are keen to see changes brought in that address these issues and tackle them head on.

Energy from waste can either be heat or electricity, which can then be used in homes and businesses, and forms a vital part of a circular economy. There are numerous ways in which this can be achieved, whether that’s combustion, gasification, anaerobic digestion, pyrolysis and landfill gas recovery.

Combustion, for example, involves burning waste to produce heat, driving turbines to generate electricity. This process does produce emissions but it’s offset because fossil fuels don’t have to be burned.

Gasification, meanwhile, involves combining everyday rubbish with oxygen or steam to produce syngas – synthesised gas that can be used to make other products, such as electricity, fertilisers or transport fuels.

And pyrolysis is where solid waste is decomposed at high temperatures but without oxygen or in an atmosphere of inert gases, meaning that lower temperatures are required. This process has lower levels of emissions compared to the likes of combustion.

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