Two million tonnes of London’s waste was sent to energy from waste (EfW) facilities last year – more than doubling in the last decade, according to a new report published by the London Assembly Environment Committee.
The London Assembly Environment Committee has published its report, ‘Waste: Energy from Waste’ today (15 February), which sets out to examine how the benefits of EfW can be maximised and the “impact on the environment reduced”.
The statistics in the report show sending waste for energy recovery is the main alternative to landfill, mainly as electricity and heat can be generated from the process (See diagram 1).
Leonie Cooper AM – “Energy from waste does have its benefits in generating heat and power, but, along with exporting waste elsewhere and sending waste to landfill, this should really be an option of last resort”
The Committee says the cost of this recovery is a “disincentive” and along with export restrictions coming into force from China and the possible impact of Brexit, London needs to carefully consider how it will manage the amount of waste it generates.
As the city strives to be greener and more sustainable, “urgent change is needed to stop recyclable and biodegradable material being incinerated”, it says.
Among its findings, the report found recyclable materials are “unnecessarily” being sent to EfW facilities, including materials, such as plastic, that are potentially hazardous to health when burnt.
The Committee says London needs to reduce the amount of waste being sent for recovery and incinerate less organic and plastic waste, as well as recyclable materials.
Other findings in the report has spurred the Committee to suggest London needs to become more self-sufficient. It says that despite London having sufficient EfW capacity, it exports over half-a-million tonnes of waste.
Leonie Cooper AM, chair of the Environment Committee, said: “We have got to get a grip on the amount of waste being sent to incineration. Burning recyclable and organic materials is wasteful and potentially harmful and as London is expected to grow, we urgently need to reduce the amount being sent for incineration and to separate out useful materials.
“Once these materials are burnt, they are lost forever and can’t be used within a circular economy. Incineration can no longer be relied upon to manage our waste effectively.
“Energy from waste does have its benefits in generating heat and power, but, along with exporting waste elsewhere and sending waste to landfill, this should really be an option of last resort.”
The report follows an announcement made by the Mayor of London yesterday (14 February) that further funding has been allocated to boost green spaces and reduce plastic waste in the capital.