Significant reductions in carbon emissions can be made in waste through use of anaerobic digestion (AD) and mechanical biological treatment (MBT) technology, according to the Government-backed Climate Change Committee (CCC).
The CCC is a new independent body that advises the Government on long-term targets to tackle climate change and has produced a report Building a low-carbon economy. In the report the committee recommends reducing greenhouse gases by at least 34% by 2020.
It claims that AD and MBT could help the UK reduce its emissions in the waste sector by at least 80% by 2050 by removing waste from landfill and substituting fossil fuel use in energy production.
The report says that 75% of this saving could come from AD and MBT technology.
The report focuses on renewable electricity but it states that there could be significant potential for emissions reduction in the waste sector via processing food waste through AD to produce biogas, which can for example be compressed for use in vehicles, displacing diesel. The report also suggests processing residual waste through MBT to produce either solid recovered fuel (SRF), which can be used in power stations and cement kilns, or as an alternative to fertiliser.
The committee added that an increase in recycling was a third cost effective option. The report states: We do not assume significant UK emissions savings from recycling, but the potential to reduce emissions both from UK landfill and from global primary extraction means that the policy frameworks should cover recycling.
CCC chair Lord Adair Turner said: The reductions required can be achieved at a very low cost to our economy; the cost of not achieving the reductions will be far greater.
Shanks managing director Ian Goodfellow welcomed the report. He said: Using this [MBT] technology will result in reductions in carbon emissions. But one would like to see greater use of these technologies to treat commercial and industrial waste streams. One would like to encourage the Government to promote this use of technology in the private finance initiative procurement process.
Although the CCC has no power to force policy change its earlier recommendation, that the 80% overall emissions reduction goal be adopted by the Government, was included as part of the Climate Change Bill.