The role of Energy from Waste within integrated waste management
Ian Crummack, General Manager of Cyclerval UK - a subsidiary of the Tiru Group - explains why proportionally scaled Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities have an important role to play with today's integrated waste management systems.
Today local authority waste strategies are set 'top downwards', therefore the minimisation strategy and the proportion of waste to be recycled and composted has already been decided. What is left is the proportion of a region's waste to be treated in order for the authority to meet its targets in relation to the amount of waste which must be diverted away from landfill.
Calculations can then be made to provide projections identifying the quantity of waste which needs to be diverted away from landfill (sometimes called "residual waste") over a defined period of time to allow the authority to continue to meet these targets.
The authority then needs to identify which form of waste treatment can best manage this waste in order for it to avoid being counted as landfilled.
There are various treatment options open to local authorities in today's waste management market place, with a number of providers offering different solution technologies. All have various arguments for and against, however, carefully designed, modern EfW facilities offer a number of distinct advantages.
Developments in EfW technology mean that it is now possible to develop efficient facilities designed on a scale proportional to a region's waste treatment needs. This provides local authorities with the flexibility to specify the size of plant required based on calculations of the ongoing local need.
The oscillating kiln technology operated by Cyclerval (such as the EfW facility near Grimsby in North East Lincolnshire) is specially designed to deal with smaller tonnages of residual waste up to around 70,000 tonnes a year on a single line. This means that, for example, a region with up to 150,000 tonnes of waste in total could find such a solution attractive.
The development of proportional scale facilities also adheres to the proximity principle, where waste should be treated close to the area in which it arises. This reduces transportation costs, traffic impact and the wider associated environmental impacts, all of which is very helpful within the typical local planning scenario.
Impact on recycling
Where EfW facilities are designed as part of an integrated waste management strategy and deliberately built on a proportion scale to meet a defined need, they do not restrict recycling potential.
This is a charge which has been commonly levelled at EfW operations, however, there is evidence from a number of European countries which show that EfW facilities, designed as part of an integrated waste management strategy, do in fact help to increase recycling rates.
In the UK, recycling rates in North East Lincolnshire have increased from 6% to over 24% since the opening of Cyclerval's EfW facility. However, it needs to be remembered that the potential for recycling depends to some extent on the availability of markets for recycled materials, which is very difficult to control or predict.
For a waste management system to work properly and achieve the highest possible recycling rates it must be fully integrated to include aspects such as:
An EfW facility, operating in conjunction with facilities such as those detailed above to provide an integrated waste management scheme, is fully in line with UK Government policy and EU Legislation and reflects the move away from landfill towards greater recycling and recovery of waste.
The credentials of EfW facilities are also enhanced by the fact that they can operate as Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants. This additional benefit makes them more environmentally efficient than other waste treatment facilities and, in a modest way, can add to the alternative energy sources that the UK needs to develop to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
The heat from the burning of waste can be used to generate both electricity and steam or hot water. The electricity is used to make the facility self-sufficient and the remainder supplied to either the national grid system or direct to local businesses. The steam or hot water can also be used locally to provide heat for domestic or industrial purposes.
Limited local impact
Modern EfW facilities, developed to a proportion scale, can also have a lower visual impact than both older style incinerators seen in some areas of the UK and some types of other waste management facilities.
A EfW plant to manage an annual input of around 60,000 tonnes of waste, again an amount appropriate to a regional scale facility, requires a site area about only 1.5 Ha and a building with a height of less than 25m at the eaves.
Value for money
Best value is obviously a very important consideration for local authorities in determining the most appropriate facility for their waste management strategy. Using a range of recycling solutions with proximity scale EfW can offer very competitive overall gate fees in that as a solution it is very well understood in terms of the outputs, and the operations, with minimal risk attached.
Cyclerval's EfW facility in North East Lincolnshire provides evidence to support each of the arguments outlined above. The facility was designed as an integral part of the local authority's integrated waste management system. It's scale is proportional to the current and projected future needs of region, and it is in line with the proximity principle of dealing with waste near source.
When all these factors and evidence are taken into account there appear to be strong arguments for the inclusion of proportional EfW facilities in modern integrated waste management solutions.