Almost 30 million tonnes of household rubbish was sent to landfill in England alone in 2003. The report states that more than half of this rubbish could be used to create enough power to light 2 million homes each year. A large majority of this waste is recognised in EU law as a source of renewable energy.
'Instead of burying rubbish that is left after recycling it can be used to create electricity through a variety of measures. We are not generating enough renewable electricity, which means that the UK will not reach the EU Renewables Directive target of producing 10% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2010. We are even less likely to reach the next target of having 20% provided by renewables by 2020.
'Year on year the UK is producing more waste. Waste into energy will have environmental benefits by reducing the rubbish mountain. It also has the added bonus that recycling residual biodegradable waste in this way is an effective way of hitting the targets in the EU Landfill Directive.
'The UK should be taking the opportunity to harness this energy as this will boost our environmental performance by increasing our use of renewable power and reduce the UK's reliance on landfill. This will not happen in the current climate.'
The findings of this report should be of interest to the government as the current DTI consultation Renewables Obligation Review, published 4 April 2005, has within its remit the opportunity to consider allowing producers of energy generated from waste to receive Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). '
Gaynor Hartnell, director of policy at RPA, said:
'Many of our European neighbours excel at both recycling and energy recovery. Producing energy from waste after recycling targets have been achieved is environmentally sound and will help us meet both our renewables targets and help us minimise the amount of waste going to landfill. It also helps with energy security, through reducing dependence on energy imports.'
The UK should seek to limit the unsustainable option of landfill for Commercial and Industrial Waste, to bring us in line with the rest of Europe. This would encourage greater recycling and secure sufficient amounts of biodegradable waste to realize the 17% potential identified in the report. ICE and RPA are calling for government support to encourage the development of this energy resource.
Peter Gerstrom continues, 'It is patently not in the UK's interest to allow the energy, enough to power the population of Wales and Northern Ireland every year, to go to waste by being buried. Radical thinking about alternative energy, such as that highlighted in this report, is required to ensure the safety and diversity of the UK energy supply.'
* The report is available here
ROCs derive from the Renewables Obligations Order 2002, which requires power suppliers to create a specified proportion of the electricity supplied to customers from renewables. Renewable energy suppliers get a certificate for each Mega Watt Hour of electricity generated. These can then be sold on to suppliers who use these in order to fulfil their obligation under the Order. Currently producers of energy from waste are excluded from the scheme. More information at: www.dti.gov.uk/renewables/renew_2.2.5.htm