In research conducted by Veolia and Imperial College, the waste and resource sector is projected to single-handedly save over 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions between the years 2023 - 2032, with more than 10% contributed to the UK’s anticipated carbon budget shortfall during this time period. Resource management leader, Veolia expects to deliver over 8 million tonnes of this total.
The UK won’t fulfil its carbon reduction commitments at current rates of emission mitigation, but the waste and resource sector is powering ahead with a variety of energy saving solutions to redress this imbalance. These include:
- Energy Recovery Facilities (ERFs) to use district heating - currently there is only 215 megawatt (MW) of district heating capacity in UK ERFs. If ERFs utilise their ability to deliver district heating to local business and residents it could generate 530 MW of heat; cutting carbon emissions by 570,000 tonnes and saving the average homeowner £90 per year through lower heating bills.
- Recycling 500,000 tonnes of plastic waste - this includes films and pots, tubs and trays. Better design in manufacturing combined with upgrading recycling facilities will help save over 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
- 50% of all diesel trucks, vans and cars in the waste/resource sector to be replaced by electric - currently only a handful of diesel trucks have been converted to electric. Making this change will improve air quality as well as contribute to long term climate goals. Saving 400,000 tonnes of CO2 in emissions.
Our research suggests the waste and resource sector will save an additional 23 million tonnes of CO2 by 2032 - a significant portion of the carbon budget shortfall. If other sectors are to make similar contributions, if we as a nation and as a planet are to make sustainable choices, it is critical we calculate the cost of carbon on our natural world. Currently we’re scratching the surface with initiatives to curb carbon - to overturn the shortfall, we must think long term but act today.
Veolia is already at the forefront of green innovation:
- At 50 water treatment works, we harvest renewable energy from sludge helping to create self-sufficient water treatment sites
- In our plastics facility in London we process 300,000,000 bottles (HDPE) turning them into high-quality food grade pellets for manufacturing
- We transform around 248,000 tonnes of food waste by-products from manufacturing to generate renewable heat and electricity on site - removing the need for thousands of waste vehicle movements per year
By manufacturing green products and energy, and developing tailored solutions for resource efficiency, Veolia is carbon positive and now saves over 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions for its customers.
Professor Nick Voulvoulis, Professor of Environmental Technology, Imperial College London led the research commissioned by Veolia:
While effective new strategies and policies are urgently needed to ensure that UK greenhouse gas emissions continue to fall, the Waste and Resource sector offers a great potential to reduce the carbon shortfall in the country’s 4th and 5th carbon budgets and to combat climate change. The sector can facilitate the transition to a green, zero waste economy, maximising the retention of the energy and materials embedded in waste, contributing to the decoupling of economic growth from natural resources.