The Environmental Services Association (ESA)

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) commissioned Ricardo to deliver the first UK-wide study to quantify greenhouse gas emissions generated by the recycling and waste sector and to assess how the industry could achieve net zero by 2040. The study quantified the level of direct, indirect, and avoided greenhouse gas emissions associated with the recycling and waste management sector activities, in order to establish the baseline emissions and understand the actions required to reduce emissions to achieve the 2040 target.

The Ricardo team was commissioned for our depth and breadth of expertise in this area and our pragmatic and transparent approach to the study. This study was the first detailed analysis of its kind and formed the evidence base for the ESA’s waste industry Net Zero Strategy. The scope of the study included a range of waste streams (Municipal, Commercial & Industrial, Construction & Demolition, Hazardous/clinical wastes) and quantification of the emissions associated with managing these wastes through the various collection, transport, processing, treatment and disposal facilities across the UK.

The project involved thorough and rigorous analysis of waste tonnage arisings for each devolved administration area (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and quantification of the throughput of these wastes through the various facility types (e.g. transfer stations, MRFs, composting, EfW, landfill facilities). Waste transport and transfer activity was also included in the study.

The carbon emissions of each waste stream passing through each waste management process was calculated using the EpE tool, accredited by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, to provide a baseline emissions calculation for the 2018 base year. Ricardo updated the functionality of the tool and the emissions factors built into the tool to provide the most relevant UK-based factors. Emissions were calculated on two bases to provide a clearer picture of the impact of the global warming potential (GWP) used to calculate the emissions, by switching from a 100-year horizon to a 20-year horizon.

The objective was to address the different residency periods for the full range of greenhouse gases and how they behave in landfill sites in particular. A set of four scenarios and two sensitivities was devised and assumptions agreed with ESA to model how the UK waste sector could reduce emissions to net zero by 2040. The scenarios implemented interventions, such as waste arisings reduction, food waste prevention, increased food waste collections, waste collections with electric vehicles, electricity grid decarbonisation, DRS and EPR implementation and carbon capture and storage in EfW facilities. These scenarios were modelled using Ricardo’s in-house Net Zero Gap Analysis Tool, which allowed the modelling of specific tonnage and energy reductions for each intervention.

The ESA announced in its’ Net Zero Strategy, that its members would be investing £10bn and creating 40,000 jobs over the coming 10 years to deliver its goal of achieving net zero in 2040, 10 years ahead of the UK Government’s deadline. The ESA’s board will be responsible for monitoring performance against the targets set and will review and report on progress against this strategy annually, and the strategy itself every five years, to ensure that it remains aligned with policy and market shifts.
A full GHG review for the sector will be conducted every two years and will be published in the ESA’s Annual Report, baselined against the first sector-wide emissions review conducted by Ricardo.

Find out more about how Ricardo can help you to develop a net zero roadmap.
View the ESA Net Zero Strategy.

Related pages:
Waste and resource management strategy
Circular economy
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