Energy-from-Waste: a curate's egg for renewables


Recently I've been getting into some heated discussions about whether energy-from-waste can be considered renewable or not.
Talk to most in the waste industry, especially those involved in energy recovery, and they will say: yes, it can. But talk to the wind and solar power brigade and they almost jump out of their seats to dispute such claims.

Obviously it's a competitive market out there, and I'm sure business interests play a part here. But that aside, I am curious as to what renewable really means – especially in this day and age.

According to Wikipedia, renewable energy is that which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished.

However if you look at the mainstream forms of renewable energy, biomass and biofuels are among them. And that's where the waters become a little muddy. For instance, food waste is considered biomass and some biofuels are generated from landfill gas.

According to the Renewable Energy Association, "any energy that is recovered from biological waste can be regarded as renewable" – on this premise, I would argue that the organic fraction of our waste is therefore a worthy contender.

And as long as we keep throwing things away that can be turned into a resource – well, isn't that some form of renewable?

Feel free to shoot me down – one expert told me that as finite resource goes into making the waste we create in the first place then strictly speaking, it can't be considered renewable.

Ultimately I guess it comes down to whether you're a purist or not. But one thing is clear – the term renewable is open to interpretation.

maxine perella

Topics: edie
Tags: biofuels | biomass | energy from waste | Energy Recovery | Food & drink | Food waste | gas | Geothermal | landfill gas | renewables | solar | Wikipedia
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