The Impact of ESG on Waste-to-Energy: Part 3 of 4

March 30th, 2022

The Challenges of Incorporating ESG into WtE

In our last post in this series, we moved beyond the examination of the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework and began studying its impact on the Waste-to-Energy (WtE) industry and how WtE can support and align with ESG goals. 

By improving waste management practices, limiting the amount of waste in landfills, and facilitating the recovery and re-use of precious materials, this industry can and is making significant strides toward improving the environmental impact of waste.

However, the Waste to Energy industry is facing its own unique set of environmental challenges regarding the methods utilized to transport and convert waste. We believe that these challenges can be addressed. 

That is what we’ll cover in today’s post.

What are the Challenges of Incorporating ESG into WtE?

The waste-to-energy process has proven to be a viable solution compared to traditional forms of waste management, which is a major focus of ESG as a whole. While it is an improvement, it isn’t perfect. 

As we discussed, ESG metrics must be objective, and part of this objectivity means that problems with WtE processes should be a part of any ESG goals or discussions.

  1. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions for Some WtE Projects

The incineration of synthetic materials, such as plastics and oil-based items, can create high volumes of CO2 that can flow into the atmosphere. 

While the ultimate goal is net-zero emissions, it can be difficult to achieve even for WtE producers. In fact, it can be considered comparable to burning fossil fuels for energy due to the number of greenhouse gasses emitted in the incineration process.

However, it is worth noting that there are other WtE projects involving livestock, tire material, wastewater, fog, and organic waste that are less complicated to facilitate. Additionally, technology and post-production treatment may also impact the amount of carbon required to convert waste to energy.

By digitizing the WtE lifecycle, energy producers can gain better insight into areas where they can produce a greater carbon deficit. That may include replacing aspects of the operation with more eco-friendly feedstock, minimizing distance to transport or limiting the amount of time needed to run incinerators and other GHG-producing machinery. 

If reducing machinery run-time is not possible, producers can analyze other aspects of their operations and supply chain to identify potential areas where a carbon deficit (even carbon credits) can be made. 

  1. Connecting WtE Producers with Waste Suppliers

Recycling and re-use is a significant part of waste disposal, and it accounts for a substantial reduction in global waste. 

Unfortunately, there are some that feel the process has its drawbacks: that it can be inefficient, and impractical. But we challenge that assumption.

We look at waste as a commodity that can be used to create profitable, sustainable new materials and energy sources. 

However,  while WtE does have enormous potential, there is still some work to be done in educating on the benefit of repurposing waste for energy and connecting those with waste, to those who can convert it into energy so that they are incentivized to do so.

  1. Lack of Regulation Around ESG

Regulation around ESG is still in the development stage leaving the WtE market with no subsidies or framework as it relates to measuring and governing ESG.

Particularly lacking are standardized governance around RNG, pyrolysis, ethanol, and other processes and compounds related to WtE. This makes it hard to normalize data and processes or to create uniformity in how ESG metrics are tracked.

However, by digitizing the processes related to WtE procurement and its supply chain, energy organizations can begin to establish a solid baseline for measuring ESG metrics, like greenhouse gas production- an important first step toward implementing ESG goals at scale. 

How EnMass Energy Is Helping WtE Leaders Embed ESG Goals in WtE Projects

As environmentally-conscious businesses, regulators, investors, and citizens lean further into adopting carbon-neutral practices across the globe, the Waste to Energy industry is poised to take center stage. 

But to offset their carbon production while facilitating their projects and create greater sustainability within their operations and supply chain, WtE organizations must embrace the digitization of their business model.

The EnMass Energy platform empowers WtE producers and suppliers to do just that by streamlining the procurement process and connecting all the parties through a central, secure cloud-based platform.

Creating transparency within the supply chain and standardizing operations is the first step to implementing and monitoring your ESG goals and ensuring that your partners and vendors uphold them.  

See our platform in action. Schedule a demo today!

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