Everyday rubbish like tyres and old furniture could be transformed into enough electricity for two thirds of London homes, according to a report out today.
The London Assembly hopes councils will stop burning waste or transporting it to landfill sites and instead convert everything that cannot be recycled – from tyres to old furniture – into electricity.
The report, “Where there’s Muck there’s Brass”, is intended to influence Mayor Boris Johnson’s waste strategy, which will be ready later this year.
It suggests several ways of converting non-recyclable waste, including breaking matter down using bacteria and “thermal treatment” using a super-high temperature oxygenated heating processes, called gasification.
Only one fifth of the 22 million tonnes of waste London produces each year is recycled and much of the rest goes to incineration plants – some of which produce electricity.
The report estimates that if every tonne of rubbish was re-used, it would generate enough power to heat up to 625,000 homes and supply electricity to two million of London’s 3.3 million households.
Members of the Assembly’s environment committee want waste companies and councils to invest in conversion systems.
Committee chairman Murad Qureshi said: “Waste-to- energy technology will help the capital reduce greenhouse gases, cut down on waste sent to landfill, increase renewable energy generation, benefit the economy and create jobs.”
But he said a stumbling block was that council contracts with waste firms can last up to 30 years.
The report also says that air pollution could affect the health of people living and working near the new conversion plants and recycling rates could fall.
Michael Warhurst, of Friends of the Earth, said the new technology could be more inefficient than sending waste to a tip. He said: “We should be focusing our ambitions on how high we can get our recycling rates.”
“Lots of these processes have their own problems and many companies claim to have the best technology.”