Infrastructure body concerned about burning plastics

Posted on 7th November, 2017

The UK government’s National Infrastructure Commission was set up to look at the need for new infrastructure across a range of sectors.

Now it has produced a consultation document relating to the waste management sector and has somewhat controversially produced a draft document suggesting that waste plastic materials should not be burnt in energy from waste plants because of the carbon emissions caused.

Providing the government with “impartial, expert advice on major long-term infrastructure challenges”, the Commission is currently consulting on priorities for national infrastructure. Part of its work aims to help with a transition to a low carbon infrastructure which it says needs to continue and accelerate over the next couple of decades.

The references to waste plastics material come in its new consultation document “Congestion, Capacity, Carbon: Priorities for national infrastructure” available here: www.nic.org.uk

On proposals for the waste sector, which form part of its work, it warns that “burning plastics in ‘energy from waste’ facilities increases greenhouse gas emissions, since plastics are carbon‑based.”

In contrast, says the consultation document – which was published on October 13 2017 – “burning degradable waste such as food and (natural) textiles reduces greenhouse gas emissions, since the carbon dioxide produced is less harmful than methane which is emitted if this is landfilled.”

The Commission is understood to favour recycling as the first option for dealing with waste plastics alongside the minimisation of waste production in the first place.

The Commission also recognises that energy from waste infrastructure has provided a “more sustainable alternative to high-carbon forms of generation such as coal-fired power stations.”