Waste industry report defends ‘clean and green’ incinerators

Polluting energy from waste (EfW) incinerators have been consigned to the past, a report published by the waste industry has suggested this week.

The report published by the Environmental Services Association (ESA) a waste industry trade body whose members operate around 97% of the UK’s current EfW facilities, calls for government support for development of new EfW infrastructure, as an alternative to sending waste to landfill.


According to ESA, each tonne of waste diverted from landfill to Energy from Waste saves 200kg of COâ‚‚ and generates enough electricity to make 22,000 cups of tea, as well as potentially heat, and ash that can be used in construction projects.

In the report, the ESA seeks to allay concerns about emissions from energy from waste plants. It notes: “The memory of the polluting incinerators of the 1960s still haunts the public perception of EfW, but it couldn’t be further from reality today.”

According to ESA, in 2015, EfW facilities produced around 0.71% of the UK’s NOx emissions, compared to 31.7% emitted from vehicle exhausts.


The report adds that dioxins emitted from EfW have reduced by 99% since 1990, noting that “bonfire night in 2015 produced 10 times more dioxins than EfW across the whole year.”

Particulate matter emissions from EfW compared to domestic wood burning are also reported to be low.

ESA states: “Since the introduction of the Municipal Waste Incineration Directive of 1989, EfW plants have had to comply with strict regulations including emissions limits. These have since been tightened by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 whilst the updated Waste Incineration Directive 2000 was subsequently replaced by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) 2010.

“Under the IED, the Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Emission Limit Values (ELVs) for EfW are set out in the Waste Incineration BAT Reference document (WI BREF), which is periodically reviewed. A rigorous clean-up stage which removes nitrogen oxides, dioxins, acid gases and particulates has been for many years an essential part of the EfW process.”

ESA’s claims are supported by a recent study funded by Public Health England, looking at the emissions of pollutants from a number of EfW plants in the UK, which suggested that incinerators emit a ‘low level’ of air pollutants (see story).

Related Links
ESA report – Energy for the Circular Economy


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