enfinium publishes new report calling for end to new energy from waste facilities without carbon capture

September 13, 2023 | News Releases, Reports

Firm also calls for end to combustible waste to landfill and waste exports by 2028

LONDON, United Kingdom (September 13, 2023)enfinium, a leading UK energy from waste operator, today publishes a manifesto for the sector highlighting the need to reduce waste, process the waste we have more effectively, and roll out Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) widely to support the government’s net zero target.

In the new report, “A vision for the future of UK waste”, published today, the firm sets out its commitment to play a leadership role in the UK’s journey to a cleaner, zero carbon future and calls on government to enact a policy framework to achieve this.

Mike Maudsley, CEO of enfinium, said: “Despite long-term efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, the UK has never produced more waste. We also do not deal with our waste effectively enough and too much is either sent to climate-damaging landfill, or shipped overseas. This needs to change.

“With the support of government, we believe the UK can both reduce its waste footprint, while making better use of the waste that cannot be recycled. Diverting more waste from landfill and overseas will increase the UK’s homegrown energy generation which, when coupled with carbon capture technology, will remove carbon from the atmosphere and make a material contribution to achieving Net Zero by 2050.”

The measures called for include an end to new EfW facilities without CCS from 2025, an end to both combustible waste going to climate-damaging landfill and waste exports from 2028, and increased transparency for consumers on the waste footprint of products. 

The report highlights a number of areas in the waste system that are not currently fit for purpose, and lead to an attitude among many that waste can be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. These include:

  • Too much waste continues to be sent to landfill, creating a problem for future generations while also emitting methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.1
  • Currently, 60% of plastic waste is sent abroad, around 500,000 tonnes, meaning our waste becomes someone else’s problem and potential jobs in this country are lost.2
  • EfW capacity is not adequately planned or managed with a risk over over-capacity in some regions and under-capacity in others. A national infrastructure planning approach to EfW is required to ensure that a decarbonised fleet of EfW facilities can be developed for the future.
  • There is an over-reliance on recycling, when some materials cannot be usefully recycled and others only recycled a certain number of times,3 which means reduce and reuse is overlooked.
  • There is no transparency about the waste footprint of products so consumers do not have adequate information about the impact of their consumption.

To address these challenges, and to ensure policy is joined-up ahead of the inclusion of energy from waste in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 2028, enfinium has called for a package of measures. These will provide certainty to the sector, the right information to consumers, and encourage private investment in technology such as CCS:

  • No new energy from waste plants permitted from 2025 unless CCS ready or an alternative decarbonisation solution such as heat supply or hydrogen production is included.
  • End combustible waste to landfill and exporting of waste by 2028 and deal with our waste at source, today.
  • Implement the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme and Deposit Return Scheme without delay.
  • Legislating to support repair and increase transparency to reveal the waste footprint of products. This will enhance consumer transparency and broadening the Right of Repair legislation, to include a wider range of products, will encourage repair and reduce consumer demand.
  • Include carbon removals in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme from 2030 at the latest to incentivise investment in carbon removal technologies like EfW with CCS.

The opportunity presented in the report is huge. Not only would the energy from waste ‘plants of the future’ process the remaining waste – which cannot be eliminated through reduce, reuse or recycle – they would provide secure jobs, home grown energy and could increase the amount of carbon captured in the UK by 20% by 2050.4

A vision for the future of UK waste

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Notes to editors

Statistical information and sources

1 Methane’s global warming potential is roughly 80 times greater per tonne emitted than carbon dioxide over 20 years (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “Environmental Improvement Plan 2023”, p. 155, available here).

2 A 2020 report from WRAP estimates that 0.6Mt of recovered plastic was exported in 2020 (WRAP, “Plastics Market Situation Report 2021”, p. 15, available here). The Defra Select Committee report notes that 60% of plastic waste is exported (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, “The price of plastic: ending the toll of plastic waste”, p. 40, November 2022, available here).

3 American Forest and Paper Association suggest that paper can only be usefully recycled five to seven times, see here. The same piece of plastic can only be recycled two to three times, see here.

4 Energy Systems Catapult, “Energy from Waste Plants with Carbon Capture”, May 2020, available here.

About enfinium

enfinium is one of the largest energy from waste businesses in the UK and is an industry leader in the conversion of unrecyclable residential and business waste into heat and partially renewable power. enfinium currently has a platform of six (two in construction) strategically located facilities across the UK. Today, enfinium has an annual waste processing capacity of over 2.3 million tonnes, and a total combined electric generating capacity of 265MW (gross) — enough energy to power more than 500,000 UK homes. For more on enfinium, please visit www.enfinium.co.uk.

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