In this webinar, our guest panel discusses the future of energy from waste technologies, particularly those dealing with thermal treatment.
A few questions we answer in the webinar – Where is the regulatory landscape taking us? Are feedstocks changing significantly, making these technologies less appropriate? Will climate and pollution campaigners bring these solutions to a premature end, or can they continue to play a critical role in sustainable waste management for cities and regions around the world through technological innovation, the expansion of heat offtake, and the opportunities surrounding carbon capture at these sites?
One of the panelists, Jarno Stet has answered audience questions that were unanswered in the live webinar.
How do you see the future market of waste to energy market, particularly for organic fractions? What are the potential promising technologies?
In the UK, the Resources & Waste Strategy asks that segregated food waste be treated via anaerobic digestion rather than in-vessel composting in order to exploit the energy potential. There is also scrutiny around the (unabated) carbon emissions from other forms of composting compared to AD. Similar requirements are in place in other European countries where either wet or dry AD is used depending on the feedstock composition and quality as well as the outlets for the fertilizers obtained this way.
Wet-AD works best for wetter organic streams, such as a food waste monostream, while dry-AD can be used for a mixed organics stream containing food/garden/ green waste.
Will biomass EfW be classified differently in the future?
Whilst using biomass for energy production does create CO2, this is biogenic and unlikely to be included in the ETS, similar to how the biogenic part of MSW is excluded if this waste is sent to an ERF.
If biomass combustion is included in the ETS, it will also have consequences for many more sectors that emit biogenic carbon from generating energy, such as AD and composting facilities.
Will PoP waste decrease in time as its use in new products is banned?
That remains to be seen. The average item of soft furnishing takes around 20 years to enter the disposal system. The restrictions only became more stringent recently, meaning the volume of items containing POPs that are in circulation will stay significant for several decades. Whilst the use and application of certain POPs is now restricted within countries that signed the Stockholm Agreement, they still enter the UK via imports from countries that have not ratified the agreement. In addition, the POPs that are now restricted are simply substituted for similar chemicals that behave in the same way as the banned ones but which have not been restricted or banned yet. This practice means that the volume of POP waste is unlikely to decline significantly as new POPs are added to the restrictions.
In addition, POPs such as PFAS are used in food packaging, but these have not been restricted yet on a widespread basis. There is growing scrutiny on their application in food packaging, but only a few regions and nations have started with restrictions. Then there is the issue of PFAS applied in products and packaging in non-food settings, which is not a major focal point at present.
The WEEE industry has reported that they continue to find POPs even in new plastics that technically should not contain them. This is likely due to blending during the recycling process, which created these plastics.
How is the present global situation of textile effluent treatment?
Textile industry effluent is not typically feedstock for EFW facilities. This would typically sit within the legal framework or legislation for (industrial) wastewater management, which differs per country or region. Standards for industrial effluent treatment tend to be more stringent in developed countries, with more lax standards in the developing world.
How best can you guarantee feedstocks?… paying/buying or legislation
The typical ERF does not tend to pay the waste producer for the feedstock, bar a few exceptions around specific mono streams used for energy generation, such as wood or food waste (i.e., a rebate is paid for the material). Much of this depends on energy market prices/income and/or renewable energy subsidies. When these are high, the plant operator might be able to offer rebates in order to attract feedstock.
In most cases involving municipal solid waste, commercial/industrial waste, hazardous/medical waste, wastewater treatment sludge, etc. the waste producer pays the ERF for the waste to be treated. In order to attract feedstock, the operator in an open market usually competes on price (gate fee). Where a waste market is closed and highly regulated e.g., via waste flow allocations or restrictions (i.e., the authority in charge decides where waste is sent for treatment: ‘’ you will send your waste to x facility’’), competition on gate fee would not normally be the main driver to obtain feedstock.
In an open market, legislation is usually needed (landfill bans, taxation, restrictions etc.) to avoid waste flowing to the cheapest outlet (normally landfill) but into ERFs.
Much also depends on the local or national (legislative) framework on how waste management is catered for. Some countries put a specific requirement to send certain waste streams into ERFs via legislation whilst others do this by restricting the ability to send (certain) wastes to landfills.