Benefits and potential impacts of energy from waste

Benefits of generating energy from waste

  • It's a vital part of an area's waste management plan and energy strategy, perhaps as part of carbon management.
  • It greatly reduces waste to landfill; reducing landfill tax costs and allowing local authorities to remain within their legally binding landfill targets.
  • It deals with waste streams for which there are no other treatment options.
  • It produces many types of refused derived fuels and other by-products with commercial value.
  • Energy that is recovered from biological waste can be regarded as renewable; this includes energy from mechanical or biological treatment (MBT) and some aspects of incineration.
  • All energy from waste technologies have lower CO2 emissions than any fossil fuel plant across all energy from waste technology fuels and processes.
  • It prevents waste from emitting methane, which has a far higher global warming potential than CO2.

Potential issues of energy from waste schemes

  • There are often very high upfront project development and capital costs.
  • It can emit several pollutants. Plant design, construction and operation must be used to minimise atmospheric emissions and harm to environment, as well as reducing risks to public health. Environmental Permitting Regulations ensure that no scheme is allowed to operate without having met these criteria.
  • Some effluents used in energy from waste processes (for examples, oils, cleaning fluids or flue washing effluent) can cause environmental damage if not controlled. The risks should be given proper consideration when the unit is installed.
  • Unless carefully stored, some waste types could be blown by the wind. Most waste is delivered in sealed containers.
  • Incinerator fly ash needs to be dealt with carefully as this can become an air contaminant; regular ‘tankering off' is required.
  • If not properly contained, some technologies can give rise to noise disturbance in adjacent properties.
  • The delivery of the waste can cause noise and air pollution if not mitigated. This is particularly important when the waste is collected from a large area (catchment), which is often necessary to ensure sufficient fuel supply.
  • Energy from waste plants can be large structures with negative visual impacts on the landscape; if an environmental impact assessment is required (EIA) this issue will need to be addressed.

 

1 May 2012

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