For Immediate Release March 2, 2017
Berkeley, U.S. — A new risk analysis from GAIA finds that companies promoting “waste-to-energy” projects like gasification and pyrolysis have a 30-year track record of failures and unfulfilled promises. After decades of industry promising a solution that both manages waste and produces energy, the vast majority of proposed plants were never built or were shut down.
“The global spotlight on marine plastic pollution has led to increasing proposals for technological solutions. But it’s important that investors recognize these processes do not work as promised and set us back in developing real solutions,” says report author Monica Wilson.
According to the report Gasification and Pyrolysis: A high risk, low yield investment, “the potential returns on waste gasification are smaller and more uncertain, and the risks much higher, than proponents claim.” Billions of dollars of investments have been wasted on unsuccessful ventures in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Germany, to name a few. In 2016, the failed UK project by U.S.-based Air Products lost $1 billion alone.
Many gasification projects that started operations, have closed after failing to meet projected energy generation, revenue generation, and emission requirements. Despite decades of opportunity the industry has not resolved these problems. Other projects have failed in the proposal stage — after raising significant investments — due to community opposition and government scrutiny into false and exaggerated claims.
Gasification plants have sought public subsidies to be profitable — particularly from feed-in tariffs. However, these facilities would regularly burn fossil fuel-sourced material including plastic waste and coal, contradicting the purpose of “renewable energy.”
Over 100 major environmental organizations released a public letter in February stating that “We are deeply concerned by the promotion of feed-in-tariffs and other renewable energy subsidies for gasification, incineration, and the use of plastics as fuel.”
The report concludes that municipal zero waste programs relying on source separation, recycling,composting, and redesign of no-value products have demonstrated economic and technical success.