Connector Newsletter Issue 38

Energy from Waste 

July 17, 2023

By Stephen Brend, Project Officer 


Your non-recyclable wheely bin is emptied, and your rubbish is taken away.  Where does it go?  For most residents of the Biosphere Reserve, it will be to landfill which is simply a hole in the ground into which stuff is dumped before it is buried.  Once upon a time, this was considered the most cost-effective solution to disposing of household waste, but not anymore.  Landfills are in short supply, increasingly costly to operate and concern about contamination and methane emissions mean that they fall at the bottom of the EPA’s waste management hierarchy.   

Sitting above landfill, in the hierarchy, is energy from waste or, as it is often called, “advanced waste processing”.  In such a system, rubbish is screened so that any recyclable products are removed before the remainder is incinerated.  In much the same way as a coal-fired power station works, the heat from the burning of the waste is used to create steam which, in turn, drives a turbine that produces electricity.  In the UK, a typical “energy from waste” plant can produce enough electricity to power 30,000 homes (while coal fired may power 100,000).  The smoke from the incinerator is “scrubbed” to remove the worst toxins and as much CO2 as possible.  Finally, the resulting ash is sent for use in industry, particularly for road construction.   

Currently, there are no advanced waste processing facilities in our region.  However, we are drawing your attention to it as it seems highly likely that pressure will build to find an alternative to landfill.  An energy-from-waste plant may well be proposed.  How do you feel about it?  We have our thoughts but would be interested to hear yours.  You can contact us through [email protected] 

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