With municipal solid waste the aim is to restrict the volume (prevention) and recycle as much as possible. But even then there is still a considerable volume to be incinerated, with energy being recuperated in the process.
The Netherlands’ ten operational municipal waste incinerators differ widely in terms of efficiency, with the best recuperating around twice as much energy from the waste as the worst. For much of the country the best-performing units are often relatively far away, though. Many local authorities therefore face the dilemma of whether to process their waste close to home or further away, at more efficient incinerators. In this study the CO2 benefits of higher energy efficiency are weighed up against the CO2 ‘costs’ of additional transport (by road, rail or water). The main conclusion is that differences in energy efficiency knock on far more in overall CO2 performance than differences in transport distances. The study was conducted for SITA.