Incineration – Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs)

It’s a valid question. With landfill getting more expensive, and available land to dispose of waste becoming more difficult to come by, is it still a viable alternative to burn waste in an incinerator?

The Environment Agency says it regulates around 130 waste incineration sites in England and Wales. They say the sector includes the incineration of municipal waste, hazardous waste, clinical waste and sewage sludge, which wouldn’t otherwise be safe for processing any other way, and certainly would not be best buried in a huge hole in the ground.

All of these sites require a licence to operate, and the Agency ensures that they work to tough regulations that monitor emissions to ensure they cause no harm; increase the amount of energy they recover from the waste; and increase the amount of ash going to beneficial re-use, rather than landfill.

The last two points above are absolutely vital. Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs) are now big business, and are springing up around the country as an alternative to landfill. In fact, our regular early morning commute to the office took us past one such plant on a regular basis, and while many people in the locality thought it was a monstrosity and fought tooth and nail to prevent its construction, we are of the opinion that it is a thing of wondrous beauty that is best appreciated at six in the morning as the sun rises through the mist while we wait at the traffic lights.

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While we are in our early morning reverie, we reflect on the fact that this particular example is one of the greenest in the business, where much of the local area’s waste is collected, sorted, and either sent for further recycling, or put on the conveyor that leads to the furnaces.

We’re told that it’s emissions are amongst the lowest in the country for any ERF plant, the heat produced generating steam, which then generates electricity to supply the homes in the local area. Veolia say the plant generates 8MW of power, which is – we’re told – a lot.

These integrated waste management solutions are now becoming the norm in the business. This means that all eventualities are explored on your waste’s journey. Where recycling is possible, it’s recycled. If not, it’s incinerated and energy is recaptured and put to good use.

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