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Is energy from waste a sustainable option?

Energy from waste (EfW) can play a limited part in sustainable resource and waste management in an integrated strategy that prioritises waste minimisation, re-use and recycling first and foremost.

There is a danger that investing in large inflexible EfW facilities as a technical fix to divert waste from landfill can undermine efforts to prioritise minimisation and recycling. The Sustainable Development Commission applies the following criteria to EfW:

  • No waste should be thermally treated unless separation of recyclables has taken place first
  • EfW systems need to be evaluated on their ability to reduce overall carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
  • Schemes need to be developed in accordance with the proximity principle
  • The scale and technology used should be flexible 
  • Planning for any EfW facility must only take place after proper engagement and consultation of local communities.

Further information

Energy from Waste in Scotland report – on the Sustainable Development Commission website

Waste online website

Waste: resources and links

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