London Waste Assembly criticise capital's Energy from Waste infrastructure

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:
Nearly 2m tonnes of waste was incinerated in London in 2017
I can't speak for my employer but the lack of understanding and very basic analysis of and by the ...

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More than half of London’s waste is incinerated, according to a report published today by the London Assembly Committee.

The report, Waste: Energy from Waste, stated the amount of waste incinerated in London the last decade has more than doubled, reaching nearly 2m tonnes in 2017.

It raised a series of issues with the capital’s current waste infrastructure, criticising EfW as one of the “least desirable forms of management in the waste hierarchy” claiming it burns recyclable materials that could be used within the circular economy.

Data from the London Plan Waste found that London exports just 10m tonnes of waste to other parts of the UK but 1.3m tonnes of waste outside of the UK.

It predicted that if London failed to reach its 65% recycling target by 2030, there would be a capacity gap its current EfW infrastructure could not pick up.

However, it did acknowledge that EfW generates electricity, provides heat for local homes and businesses and reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill while burning food waste and paper is classed as renewable energy.

Sadiq Khan, London Mayor, is now planning to regulate London’s EfW sector by limiting its carbon emissions and maximising the energy benefits it can generate.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has said it is ‘disappointed’ by the report, arguing EfW uses waste left over after recycling which would have been sent to landfill.

Jacob Hayler, ESA executive director, said: “We are perplexed how the Committee sees EfW as a hindrance to recycling, despite the overarching evidence to the contrary.

“We hope that the final report going to the Mayor next month has some actual policy recommendations grounded in reality and addressing the big challenges London faces.”

Mark Sommerfeld, policy analyst at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “The London Assembly’s energy from waste report highlights the need for renewed thinking and investment in waste infrastructure in London.

“Energy from Waste has a crucial role to play at the end of the waste hierarchy ensuring that the amount of waste going to landfill is minimised.”

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I can't speak for my employer but the lack of understanding and very basic analysis of and by the report's writers and allied critics demonstrates a crucial problem in what have become politicised matters - basically there is nobody in authorities who is competent to look beyond the simplistic concepts in matters of sustainability. I therefor wish the REA the best of luck in countering the simplistic reaction of the authorities.
Could REA write a simple overarching report with a flow diagram showing the way the waste is handled? This could underline (a) the fact that the incineration is the last stage in the overall process and deals only with anything that earlier sorting and treatment cannot recycle, and (b) that incineration greatly reduces landfill quantities, and turns waste into CO2 plus energy rather than into the 25 times more polluting methane without any energy reclaim.

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