Energy from waste: Regional Sustainability Workshop Series

In several places in the world, there is still a poor public perception of Energy- from-Waste systems. Lack of transparency during the decision-making process, not inviting residents and stakeholders to be part of the project, as well as lack of information exchange between the operators and the clients may lead to poor public acceptance. Developing scientifically based sustainability metrics to give a sound basis for the discussions might also facilitate greater acceptance. Further, a proper decision framework integrating all the main aspects of sustainability (economy, environment and social) is an enabler to ensure that the developed strategies are not sub-optimized in favour of short-term solutions.

Between November 2022 and October 2023, IEA Bioenergy Task 36 organized three informative ‘Regional Sustainability Workshops’ on regionally relevant waste management systems with the participation of stakeholders to consider the most relevant sustainability indicators.

  1. Waste-to-energy in South Africa (30 November 2022)
  2. Organic and plastic waste resource recovery in North America (25 July 2023)
  3. Food waste in Ireland (18 October 2023)

The three workshops are summarized in this report: Task 36 Regional Sustainability Workshop Series Report

Main conclusions:

The result from the three workshops indicate that stakeholders consider a holistic approach which considers social, environmental and economic factors to be necessary in the decision-making process relating to new waste management infrastructure. In all three workshops, social impacts were considered as either the most important impact or the second most important impact, highlighting the growing awareness of the need to include social factors in sustainability frameworks and metrics. The results from the workshops also highlight the importance of considering a range of social impacts within a specific context as their importance varied in different countries. For example, in South Africa, ‘free from forced labour’ and ‘free from corruption’ were considered the most important social impacts in while in the US ‘free from discrimination’ and ‘occupational health and safety’ were ranked the highest by stakeholders. In the case of Ireland, a wide range of social indicators (19 out of 26 social impacts) were considered as either important or very important. Inclusion of stakeholders in the decision making is necessary to ensure a successful adoption of new sustainable systems and infrastructure while consideration of social impacts is essential to ensure social acceptance.

For more info, contact Dr. Fionnuala Murphy: ( University College Dublin )