COVID-19 hastens a new dawn for reusable energy

One positive effect of the Coronavirus outbreak has been to accelerate investment in Research and Development. For obvious reasons, much of the increased activity has been concentrated on medicine, medical systems, public health and life sciences. But other sectors have benefited, too, one of them being waste management.

Even prior to the pandemic, for decades the problem of dealing with increasing volumes of waste has been taxing technical minds across the globe. Conventional solutions have invariably revolved around the traditional ‘make-use-dispose’ approach, but modern thinking has shifted to look more like ‘prevent-reduce-reuse-recycle-recover-dispose’. Being forced to burn what’s left after all other stages have been exhausted is widely regarded as the solution of last resort. Even then, much of the discussion now revolves around how to convert waste into useable energy (WtE).

For commercial perspective, academic studies estimate that the worldwide value of WtE market will be worth over $50bn by 2027; the equivalent figure in 2019 was just over $35bn. Thermal technology (incineration) dominates the market and that is expected still to be the case for some years to come. But, because of growing concerns about burning waste and the resulting environmental footprint, the race is on to perfect biochemical disposal. The prize for finding a way to reduce volumes of waste ending up in landfill is certain to be worth a fortune.

The good news is that Europe leads the way, although progress has been greater in some countries than others. In Denmark, for example, WtE facilities tend to be in the middle of communities –regardless of local property values – so that the energy can be distributed more efficiently to homes, schools, shops etc. Perhaps more importantly, Danish local authorities have combined waste departments so that the same people responsible for collecting household waste are also in charge of converting that material into useable energy – a brilliant example of sensible, joined-up thinking and one that we should all consider.

Closer to home, the UK Government has openly acknowledged the need for more WtE plants and, although there are some excellent examples of creating energy from waste in this country, that is not to say we can’t learn a thing or two from our neighbours. 

As a company, UnitBirwelco has had the experience of being involved in many WtE projects and, as part of our carbon negative pledge, we stand ready to play our part. All enquiries welcome.