As debate heats up within the industry over waste management policies, following a ban by China on scrap imports, UK plastics recycler Axion Polymers Ltd has backed the option of landfilling plastics materials.
Commenting on the issue, Keith Freegard, director Axion Polymers, said “landfilling, rather than incineration, might be the better option.”
According to Freegard, China’s crackdown on imports of contaminated recyclables is leading to “an ever-increasing stockpile of waste plastics materials worldwide.”
“Tackling this problem waste stream will probably lead to increased incineration of waste to produce energy as the ‘best’ solution,” Freegard pointed out.
This, noted the official, could be “an attractive option”.
“But when the carbon produced by that process taken into account, is it really the best environmental solution?” he added.
Creating energy from waste produces between 25% to 30% residual incinerator bottom ash (IBA), which according to Freegard still requires waste disposal or long-term storage.
“Although generating heat and power from waste sounds appealing, it is inefficient when compared to burning gas in a modern generator system. Burning natural gas also produces fewer emissions and there is nil solid ash waste to dispose of,” he added.
Also impacting the environment will be the carbon release from waste incineration, with lower efficiency rates compared to alternative sources of power generation.
“Using the CO2 metric alone suggests that it makes more sense to bury large amounts of plastic in a long-term ‘carbon sink’ in the ground and efficiently combust natural gas to satisfy our immediate power needs,” the Axion director added.
Referring to the high environmental cost of ‘free carbon release’, the Axion official, suggested that the term such as “sky-fill” could be used for end-of-life waste incineration technology, to compare it with the alternative ‘land-fill’ disposal route for plastics.