In response to a report today from the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), which said that certain emissions from energy from waste plants are not being reported, the Environmental Services Association (ESA) and Viridor have released a statement.
Libby Forrest, ESA policy and parliamentary affairs officer, who looks after energy-from-waste for the association, explained that the facilities are highly-regulated, with results showing they are “well below limits.
Ms Forrest said: “Energy from Waste (EfW) provides an essential and cost effective service to local authorities and businesses across the UK, diverting 10m tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill, generating over 5TWh of low-carbon energy each year, and working effectively alongside recycling services.
“EfW is one of the most tightly regulated combustion processes. Its emissions limit for particulate matter is amongst the lowest applied to any industry. EfW plants continuously monitor particulate matter, which captures PM10 and PM2.5, which is reported to and independently verified by the Environment Agency. Results show that the average EfW operates well below the emissions limit.
“There are no separate emissions limits for PM10 and PM2.5 because levels are below what modern continuous monitoring equipment can accurately categorise. Plants do however test for PM10 and PM2.5 levels which will produce more accurate data based on individual plant measurements rather than the emissions factor cited in the report, and these figures may well be below the reporting threshold for the Environment Agency pollution inventory.
“Public Heath England has looked carefully at EfW plants and concluded that modern, well-managed EfWs make only a “small contribution” to local air pollution.”Libby Forrest
“Public Heath England has looked carefully at EfW plants and concluded that modern, well-managed EfWs make only a “small contribution” to local air pollution, and any health impacts “if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable.” A study funded by Public Health England and led by the Small Area Health Statistics Unit at Imperial College concluded last year that, “Overall […] PM10 exposures related to [EfW] emissions in Great Britain are extremely low […] especially when compared to annual mean background concentrations.” To put it in context, domestic wood burning stoves emit over 700 times more PM10 than UK EfWs.”
Meanwhile. a spokesperson for Viridor explained that the company has invested in energy recovery as it provides a safe and cost-effective way of using residual waste.
The spokesperson said: “In 2018/19, Viridor ERFs will receive 2.9 million tonnes of residual waste (including joint venture facilities), with a generating capacity of 242MW electricity, enough to power 400,000 homes (a city the size of Birmingham). They are operated to the highest standards by our teams of experienced and skilled engineers and support staff.
Recycling and energy recovery are both crucial and equally important components of the UK’s waste and resource management systems – it’s important to achieve a “balanced approach to deal with the materials that businesses and householders throw away in a responsible, resource-efficient and cost-effective way.
“Viridor has one of the UK’s largest networks of 300+ advanced recycling, energy recovery and landfill diversion facilities with specialist facilities dedicated to helping the UK maximise recycling opportunities. It is a founding signatory to the UK Plastics Pact and most recently has worked with major UK retailers Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, and leading packaging company Faerch Plast to ensure more black plastic is recycled and reprocessed back into new food grade packaging.
“As a leading recycler, Viridor continues to work with and advise consumer brands and retailers to ensure more packaging is designed for recyclability, which is the key to creating closed loop recycling and a more circular economy.
As the Environmental Services Association (ESA) notes, the emissions limits for particulate matter (and other potential pollutants) applied to energy from waste are amongst the strictest applied to any industry.
“Viridor plants continuously monitor emissions including particulate matter, which captures PM10 and PM2.5. This information is reported to and independently verified by the Environment Agency. Results show that our ERFs operate well below the emissions limit.
“We encourage and facilitate community liaison groups at all our ERFs and other major facilities. These ensure fair scrutiny of our performance, and enable discussion of any local priorities as well as the local economic and community benefits that these well-run plants deliver. ”