| Nathan Gray

Reconomy’s Head of Sustainability shares thoughts on Net Zero Agenda

Our Head of Sustainability, Nathan Gray, participated in a panel discussion last month on ‘the net zero agenda’ at the MRW National Recycling Conference.

Designed as a ‘think tank’ for the waste management community representatives from the public and private sectors discussed how they can help deliver net zero and the role carbon capture has to play as decarbonisation increasingly becomes a priority for the sector.

The group used the ESA’s Net Zero Strategy to give the session a framework and context pulling out 3 main priority areas:

  • Investing a forecasted £10bn in recycling infrastructure over the next decade to make the recycling process more efficient, reduce associated emissions,
  • Decarbonising non-recyclable waste treatment by removing organics from landfill by 2030 and plastics from energy recovery facilities, while working with government to enable carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology to mitigate remaining emissions
  • Transitioning vehicles and fuel use to zero emission sources

A lot of the discussion focused on the need to improve the segregation of food waste and the benefits this would deliver including the ability to keep recyclates clean, facilitating three weekly general waste collections for households and reducing methane emissions from landfill. The aspect of decarbonisation was also discussed on the basis that food waste sent to anaerobic digestion facilities generates green electricity while also creating an alternative to petroleum based fertilisers.

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage was also linked to Energy from Waste (EfW) plants and how this might be affected by changes to feedstocks as a result of mandatory DRS (Deposit Return Schemes) and food waste collections. Overall, it was felt that one would compensate for the other as wet food waste takes more energy to combust. Therefore, the energy consumed within the incinerator and subsequent CO2 would be diverted to the AD plant and captured as green electricity. The reduction on EfW energy gains would be more than compensated by the protection of virgin feedstocks through DRS.

As the discussion moved to investment Reconomy shared a view that enhancements to the existing infrastructure together with better communication to support waste producers in segregating at source, would mean current waste treatment facilities are probably adequate in the short term. Future investment into new technologies was thought important to facilitate greater circularity with regards to new markets such as textiles. Higher quality recyclates and carbon savings would drive this future investment.

Reconomy would like to thank MRW for organising the event together with the other panellists:

  • Emma Beal, Managing Director, West London Waste Authority
  • Jenny Grant, Head of Organics and Natural Capital, The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology
  • Adam Read, External Affairs Director, Suez Recycling & Recovery UK | President, Chartered Institution of Wastes Management

Moderated by Andrea Lockerbie, Associate Editor, MRW