Bending the Line: SRF and the path to a circular economy



Check out the executive summary of the “Bending the Line: Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) and the Path to a Circular Economy” report from Advetec and read the full report now.

Against a backdrop of growing regulatory change and legislative pressure, waste handlers must think differently – moving away from traditional routes such as exports, landfill and low-level incineration in favour of more innovative, environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternatives.

This is part of a broader global movement towards a circular economy – where waste is designed out of our behaviours in favour of a reuse, recycle and regenerate mentality.

However, much of the conversation around circularity focuses on the environmental and economic utopia of a 100% circular model rather than the decades-long and vastly expensive journey required to get there, or the changes that can and should be made now. More focus must be placed on “bending the line” – that is finding ways to transition from a linear economy to a circular one.

One way to support the move from a linear to a circular economy and deliver improvements now rather than tomorrow, is to increase the focus on residual waste, specifically non-recyclable waste, as this presents an area of urgent interest for waste handlers.

Currently, close to 20 million tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste (approx. 65%) goes to landfill or for low-level incineration each year across Europe because of the presence of organic matter – a fact that gets largely overlooked. But this waste stream could be valuable in helping the UK’s transition to a more circular mindset.

This can be achieved by turning it into Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), which holds far greater value than Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). Doing so not only gives waste handlers the means to lower their own and their customers’ costs and carbon emissions immediately, it reduces the world’s reliance on fossil fuels – a change we know we must all get behind.

It’s because of this that SRF is a growing market. As large-scale industries like cement production seek to decarbonise, demand for alternative fuels like SRF increases. This demand is driven by the fact that SRF can be made with a higher proportion of biogenic carbon – which is not subject to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Although smaller and mid-sized waste handlers have been priced out of the SRF market historically, and some have had limited knowledge about SRF offtake as an option – that is all changing. This strong demand for SRF, coupled with Advetec’s on-site biotechnology solution, is levelling the playing field and enabling independent waste businesses to enter the SRF market with ease for the first time.

Waste handlers can put Advetec’s cost-effective biotechnology on-site and configure it to fit within their existing operations without requiring significant capex or vast amounts of time to make it happen. It gives smaller waste handlers access to an offtake route that was previously unavailable.

It’s also a localised solution that reduces mileage, takes collection lorries off the road, and throws a lifeline to remote communities where waste infrastructure is often lacking. There are plenty of other benefits, too. Turning non-recyclable waste into SRF can divert 100% of it from landfill or low-level incineration, lower GHG emissions by over 70% (compared with landfill) and help energy-intensive industries decarbonise.

And, as SRF is well suited to other applications such as gasification and further recycling, it opens up even greater uses for waste once deemed worthless. Through SRF creation, waste handlers can harness innovation, protect profits, and guard customers against price increases.

In the global war on waste, we all have to re-educate ourselves about the impact of our behaviours and embrace the solutions and technologies with the power to deliver meaningful change. While global leaders concentrate on making the long-term infrastructural changes we need to live in a circular society, we must act now and make immediate improvements.

Greater use of SRF from non-recyclable waste helps to bend the line, moving us away from a linear ethos and putting us firmly on the path towards a more circular economy.

You can the read the full report from Advetec now.

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