There is not currently a route for general (black bag) waste disposal which involves lower greenhouse gas emissions than a modern, efficient energy recovery facility associated with a district heat network. This means that NLHPP is beneficial in terms of greenhouse gas emissions compared to alternative residual waste disposal options, such as landfill or transporting waste elsewhere. Our Key Points on Carbon Impact explains these significant carbon savings.
When the Energy Recovery Facility starts operating, we expect the net carbon dioxide emissions from the facility will be equivalent to 28,000 tonnes per year. The detailed explanation of the project’s carbon impact was carried out in 2019. It calculates the fossil-fuelled proportion of the waste minus the carbon savings from not using more carbon polluting fossil-fuel energy production and the recovery of metals for recycling.
The new ERF will be an integral part of NLWA’s actions to tackle the climate emergency. The facility will be in line with the Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy to help London reach net zero. It will divert rubbish from landfill; landfill is the worst option for the environment and a major contributor of methane emissions. The ERF will enable NLWA to continue to reduce the carbon impact of north London’s non-recyclable rubbish by displacing carbon-intensive processes and virgin fossil fuels. Moreover, the introduction of Carbon Capture and Storage in due course would further reduce the carbon impact of the facility to a level where it could be carbon negative.
Carbon is carried in the waste. Waste comes from sources of biogenic (food, paper, wood) or fossil origin (plastics). In an energy from waste facility the waste is burnt and the carbon within the waste is released. According to Defra, only the waste from fossil sources (plastics) should be counted when calculating carbon emissions because this is releasing carbon that was previously in the ground. Waste from biogenic sources has carbon which was absorbed out of the atmosphere when it grew and therefore isn’t counted in UK carbon emissions inventories.
With a carbon capture plant, you can trap carbon dioxide as it is released from both plant and fossil sources, which means there is a net reduction in carbon in the atmosphere. This captured carbon can then be stored permanently where it cannot harm the environment.
When we use an energy from waste plant we use north London’s rubbish as a resource for society - generating energy in the form of heat and power for thousands of homes. The EcoPark will enable one of the largest district heat networks in London. This means no gas boilers in homes connected to the heat network. We’re proud that our plans align with the recommendations for managing rubbish set out in the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget.
Throughout the building stage we are also following the Carbon Management Strategy to ensure we reduced embodied carbon as much as possible in delivery the new facilities. Our contractors have a 10% reduction in embodied carbon target which has seen multiple innovations occur onsite including the award winning Ultra-Low carbon concrete trial and taking EcoPark House off-grid to use renewable energy with solar panels and ground-source heat pumps.