Tuesday 22nd of August 2017 | Posted In: Generating energy, Renewable energy

Waste: an inevitable by-product of living or a useful resource?

Even in these modern times, waste remains a part of our daily lives. From organic matter to petroleum-based plastic, waste comes in many forms. Recycling is a higher priority these days than at any time in the past, but doing so is not always a cost-effective option. In such cases, other methods of disposal may be considered, such as incineration.

The heat released through combustion can be used to do something useful; whether that’s driving a turbine or heating a structure depends on requirement and practicality. A recent news story reported about a site in Quebec, where the local government is investing in a waste-to-energy programme, for the heating of a hydroponic greenhouse among other buildings. However, I remain somewhat skeptical over claims that this is ‘an original and cost-effective solution to the open-air burning of waste materials’.


In the UK, waste incinerators have been around for a long while. More recently, the use of biomass boilers within agriculture and horticulture have become relatively commonplace, many of which are capable of burning waste material. Subject to meeting legislative requirements, they may even be eligible for government subsidies, typically in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). An increasing number of UK growers are heating glasshouses and tunnels under the RHI scheme, with many burning waste (e.g. from Arboriculture or old pallets in woodchip form).


Whether or not, as indicated by the article, burning waste in a ‘thermal waste-to-energy processing system’ is a cheaper alternative to open-air burning is questionable, given the size of investment often required with such projects. However, that’s not to say it isn’t more valuable, especially if the end user would burn fuel anyway for heat generation. Where incentivised schemes are in place, it can be particularly cost-effective to burn waste, especially in favour of virgin product.

Waste not, want not

Consideration should also be given to the fact that the burning of waste is often classed as a renewable form of energy, including by governments. Renewable it may be, in so much as we – society – continue to produce a steady supply of rubbish, but sustainable it probably isn’t. Depending on what exactly is being burned, the rate at which raw materials are being consumed is often higher than the supply can be replenished.

Read the full article here: http://www.hortibiz.com/item/news/can-waste-to-energy-greenhouse-project/. For more information on using waste wood in your biomass boiler, have a look here: http://www.fec-energy.co.uk/in-focus/1072471/Using-waste-wood-in-your-biomass-boiler.