The London Assembly has found that London’s waste could generate enough electricity to power two million homes, and urged London mayor Boris Johnson to champion the necessary technologies.
A study by the London Assembly Environment Committee, entitled Where There’s Muck There’s Brass, found that London’s rubbish could be used to power up to two million homes and provide heat for 625,000 houses.
The committee urged Johnson to take the lead in the development of technology to produce energy from waste, including anaerobic digestion, gasification and pyrolysis.
London Assembly Environment Committee chairman Murad Qureshi said waste management in London is unsustainable and uneconomical. “The Mayor must take the lead on further measures to help jump-start waste management step change,” he said.
“The Mayor must take the lead on further measures.”
Murad Qureshi, London Assembly
“Waste to energy technology will help the capital reduce greenhouse gases, cut down on waste sent to landfill, increase renewable energy generation, benefit the economy and create jobs.”
The mayor has already ordered the delivery of five exemplar new ‘bio-fuel’ plants in the capital by 2012. In June this year he launched the Foodwaste to Fuel Alliance comprising developers, food producers, energy companies and other key parties. The Alliance will provide infrastructure to extract energy from London’s food waste.
The London Waste and Recycling Board, which is supporting the Alliance, has £31M earmarked for projects that will create energy. It is hoped that the Olympic Games will also offer opportunities to convert its food waste into energy.
Exploiting the potential
A spokesperson for the mayor said: “By recycling as much as possible, and using the remaining waste to produce energy, we estimate London could save at least £100m in collection and disposal costs. The Mayor is working to exploit this potential as Chair of the London Waste and Recycling Board.
“The Mayor’s draft waste strategy for London is published later this year, which addresses many of the issues contained in this report and will be open to consultation with the Assembly and Londoners.”
Barriers to the technology’s development include public opposition, difficulties obtaining planning consent and long-term existing contracts for rubbish which prevent potential companies obtaining waste material.
Converting non-recyclable rubbish into gas and electricity could reduce the amount sent to landfill, save money spent on taxes on dumping waste in the ground, cut London’s CO2 emissions by 1.2M tonnes and also reduce methane emissions.
The London Assembly study said London produces around 22 million tonnes of waste each year, enough to fill Canary Wharf tower every eight days. Currently more than half of that amount ends up in landfill, with only a fifth (22%) being recycled.