A Scottish Authorities-funded technical examine by Zero Waste Scotland discovered that minor modifications in municipal waste composition may trigger Vitality from Waste (EfW) to generate extra local weather change emissions than landfill. Subsequently, EfW shouldn’t be thought-about a low carbon expertise anymore within the UK. Electrical energy technology is changing into extra decarbonized, and power from waste doesn’t lower it.

The report says that EfW vegetation in Scotland burning residual municipal waste had a median carbon depth of 509 gCO2/kWh in 2018. The authors, Kimberley Pratt and Michael Lenaghan wrote:

That is practically twice as excessive because the carbon depth of the UK marginal electrical energy grid common, which was 270 gCO2/kWh in 2018.

The examine measures local weather change impacts by means of greenhouse gasoline emissions and carbon depth. Zero Waste Scotland defined:

Carbon depth is a normal strategy for evaluating the local weather change impacts of various power technology applied sciences. On this examine, the carbon depth of EfW vegetation are in comparison with the UK nationwide grid common. The outcomes present that the carbon depth of EfW vegetation is twice as excessive because the grid common. EfW carbon intensities would stay above the grid common even the vegetation had been transformed to Mixed Warmth and Energy techniques, demonstrating that EfW can not be thought-about a low carbon expertise within the UK.


Greenhouse gases from landfills have been the motive force for the development of EfW vegetation. The examine in contrast the carbon impacts of sending one tonne of residual municipal waste to both EfW or landfill. Common EfW impacts had been 15% decrease than landfill in 2018. Nevertheless, modifications in waste composition imply that EfW impacts are anticipated to rise. Small modifications in composition may push EfW impacts above landfill, resulting in pointless local weather change emissions.

More Plastic Causes Energy From Waste To Become Worse Than Landfill
(Credit score: Zero Waste Scotland)

The UK has been developing EfW vegetation in an ongoing transfer away from landfills pondering it was the extra sustainable possibility. This new report begs to vary. If the share of plastic within the combine will increase from 15% to only 17%, then the greenhouse gasoline emissions per ton for incinerators rises to be equal to that of a landfill.

The report concludes:

Whereas EfW vegetation have been profitable, so far, in lowering greenhouse gasoline emissions from residual municipal waste, there’s a danger that these financial savings shall be misplaced if present tendencies and insurance policies proceed. That is as a result of altering nature of waste composition and the profitable decarbonization of the UK and Scottish power grids. Decarbonization of the grid has been so profitable that EfW applied sciences can not be thought-about low carbon options.


Choices on future administration should be primarily based on probably the most present and correct information potential to make sure local weather change impacts are minimized. Waste coverage needs to be tailored to benefit from vital alternatives to scale back the local weather change impacts of waste additional.

Zero Waste Scotland is dedicated to eliminating waste, so the nation meets its 2025 waste targets. It says folks ought to cut back waste and recycle as a lot as potential. That’s an important. Then, no matter stays needs to be handled utilizing the bottom carbon possibility out there. Its essential goal is to scale back the local weather change impacts of waste.