Waste has been burnt for hundreds of years, predominantly as a way to reduce the size and amount of rubbish sent to landfill.
The first waste incineration plant was built back in the Victorian era, when the UK was in the middle of the industrial revolution. Its purpose was simply to dispose of waste. There was a lot of it, and – as always – space in landfills was limited.
There was no thought given to the churning out of dirty smoke and chemicals – this was the industrial era.
Waste incineration carried on like this for much of the 20th century, with the main aim being to reduce waste in size as much as possible, and then send to landfill.
Harnessing its energy wasn’t given much thought
But in the 1990s, we started to see a shift in thinking and a change in government policies moving forward. The goal became to reduce landfill, recycle more and generate low carbon energy sources.