Waste energy?

The Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has launched a report urging the Government to look upon waste as a resource for energy generation.



The report, entitled ‘A Wasted Opportunity’, outlines a five-point plan that proposes to use energy produced in the conversion of waste materials, to help the UK meet its renewable energy commitments and achieve an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.



Ian Arbon, author of the report and chairman of the Energy, Environment and Sustainability Group at IMechE, believes that the only way for the UK to generate a third of its electricity via renewable sources by 2020 is through the creation of a national Energy-from-Waste (EfW) network.



The UK currently produces 307 million tonnes of waste annually, with over 60 per cent of municipal waste destined for landfill sites.


However, legislation passed in 2002 means that the government is committed to halving its landfill capacity by 2013.



According to IMechE, the UK has a tradition of burying its waste in landfill sites or incinerating it and burying it afterwards.



Drawing inspiration from continental models, the report focuses on EfW as a short-to-medium term strategy to reduce the use of landfill sites, decentralise the management of waste and increase the country’s use of renewable energy sources.



An EfW plant works by converting waste into usable energy such as electricity, heating and transport fuels.


There are four main processes used by EfW plants – combustion, gasification, pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion – and the type of waste taken by the plant is dependent on which technology has been chosen.



EfW plants can be used in a wide range of sizes, and suited to local or regional energy production.


The report states that the ‘proximity principle’ should be applied, so that the heat energy from EfW can be used to heat the local community.



In addition, the report asks the Government to view waste as a resource rather than a problem and reserve recycling for waste products that cannot successfully be converted into energy.



Commenting on the importance of this strategy, Arbon said: ‘I believe that we will not meet our targets without energy from waste.


‘We are urging the Government to take leadership in this issue for this to happen.’