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Incineration and sustainable energy

Incineration and sustainable energyWhen it comes to waste disposal the UK has been labelled the dustbin of Europe, burying more household waste in landfill than any other EU state.

According to figures, we dispose of 27 million tonnes of rubbish in landfill sites each year, 7 million more than any other country.
This shouldn’t be a problem if we had somewhere to store the rubbish safely, but experts predict we will run out of landfill space by 2016.
A solution suggested by some is Energy from Waste (EfW) or incineration. This could cut down the amount of landfill needed and generate energy at the same time.

What is Energy from Waste?

The process involves extracting energy stored in rubbish in the form of fuel or electric power.
The energy can then be used as a power source.
There are four main ways of recovering energy from waste:

This article will focus on waste incineration or the controlled burning of waste at high temperatures.

Isn’t burning waste bad for the environment?

Harmful emissions can be reduced if the incinerators operate at high temperatures or around 1,000 degrees centigrade.
For every 1000 MW of power generated by EfW plant, carbon emissions are cut by 1 million tonnes.
As well as cutting emissions the EfW plants can generate huge amounts of energy. For every 100,000 tonnes of waste incinerated, it produces 7 MW of power- enough to power 5600 houses for a year.
Once the waste has been burned and the energy extracted, much of the left-over material can be recycled. Metals can be reused and the ash can be used in construction materials for the chemical industries.
Another real benefit is that, unlike our depleting fossil fuel reserves, there is a never ending supply of waste to power the EfW plants.

Is it being used in the UK?

In the UK, about 10 per cent of all waste is incinerated. At present there are 10 incinerators in operation and three under construction.
These can burn 2.5 million tonnes of waste per year and generate 188 Mega Watts of power.
Modern EfW plants are safe and reliable, and strictly controlled to ensure that emissions are kept within the safe limits defined by European Legislation.

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