What are the alternative ways to treat non-recyclable waste?

We’ve thoroughly considered the alternatives for dealing with the volume of household waste produced by north London’s residents – which represents around 3% of the UK’s total.

Following wide-reaching public consultation with residents and engaging key industry stakeholders about the scheme, it was agreed that replacing the facility at Edmonton with the new Energy Recovery Facility was the most environmentally responsible way to deal with the challenge of north London’s non-recyclable waste. None of the alternatives is a suitable or sustainable solution for the volumes of waste that we need to treat at Edmonton EcoPark.

These alternative methods are just not suitable:

·       Landfill – Sending waste to landfill outside of London would cost twice as much over the lifetime of the scheme, result in thousands of tonnes of extra bin lorry journeys, and generate greenhouse gases 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Compared to landfill generating energy from waste produces more energy per tonne of waste and allows us to extract metals for recycling and ash for use in construction.

·       Third party energy from waste facilities where capacity can be found – This is not a long-term solution and would require transporting waste from north London to other plants, increasing bin lorry journeys and adding to London’s heavy road vehicle traffic. It would also cost more.

·       Advanced thermal treatment (gasification and pyrolysis) – Only smaller capacity plants are in operation. We cannot risk using a technology which is unproven for treating the large volumes of waste that we have a statutory responsibility to dispose of.

·       Mechanical biological treatment – This is not a complete solution for disposing of waste, it is just a step before burning it. MBT produces a fuel which still has to be disposed of. To treat the volumes of waste in north London we would need two processing plants, plus an energy from waste facility. Therefore, incurring additional costs with no extra benefit.

·       Anaerobic Digestion – This method is only suitable for food or organic waste where it is collected separately. We actively use this for treating food waste now. But you cannot treat unrecyclable waste in an anaerobic digestion plant.

Read the full alternative assessment report here.