Capturing the Future of Residual Waste

Capturing the Future of Residual Waste

September 22, 2022

A view on the potential of carbon capture, utilisation and storage in the UK's Energy from Waste sector.

As residual waste continues to be processed at EfW sites and the drive to decarbonise continues, CCUS may soon be widely adopted in the industry. A thorough understanding of the regulatory, financial, and technical landscape is critical to ensure economically sounds CCUS investment decisions are made.
Portrait of Hrishikesh Potey
London Office, Western Europe

The UK waste management landscape has undergone significant change over the last 20–30 years, with a notable increase in recycling rate helping reduce residual waste. However, the UK’s ability to increase recycling further — without radical intervention — is diminishing, constrained by practical limits on material circularity. Firstly, more widespread recycling requires a greater degree of at-source separation of waste. Secondly, substantial technological improvements are still required to process currently unrecyclable waste streams, such as thin film plastics, or to reduce recycled plastic degradation.

Final treatment of residual waste has also been changing, primarily through rising landfill taxes. This has led to the emergence of significant Energy from Waste (EfW) capacity in the UK, which has become a critical pillar of the UK’s waste management strategy (EfW accounted for c. 50% of UK’s municipal and Commercial and Industrial (C&I) residual waste treatment in 2021). EfW provides many benefits over landfill, and compared to non-landfill alternatives it is technologically mature and relatively agnostic to the composition of residual waste. However, as typically only half of the carbon contained in incinerated waste is of biogenic nature, EfW remains a net CO2 emitter. EfW facilities thus need to incorporate carbon capture as an integral element if the UK wants to reach its overall net-zero target by 2050.

Cost of C02 capture, 2004-2030
Negative CO2 emissions can be achieved by capturing and storing point source emissions from biogenic fuels (referred to as Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage — BECCS), or by directly capturing and then storing CO2 from the atmosphere (referred to as Direct Air Carbon Capture and Storage — DACCS).

Residual waste volumes are inevitable due to many unavoidable constraints on recycling. However, even with maximum diversion from landfill to EfW, processing of this waste will generate more CO2 emissions than acceptable in a net-zero economy. As a result, the integration of carbon capture technology within EfW appears essential in order to decarbonise waste management.

In this study we outline the current state of Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technology, its suitability for widespread adoption in EfW in the UK, and implications for UK EfW infrastructure operators and investors.

UK EfW CO2 emissions, 2000-2050
. As capacity continues to grow, EfW is one of the few industries whose emissions are expected to increase over the next 20 years in the UK’s roadmap to net-zero.
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Capturing the Future of Residual Waste


A view on the potential of carbon capture, utilisation and storage in the UK's Energy from Waste sector.

Published September 2022. Available in
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