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Why managing scope 3 emissions is essential for FMs

Blog by Neil Grundon, Chairman of Grundon Waste Management

I like to refer to Scope 3 emissions as society’s dirty secrets – unlike their big brothers (Scope 1 and 2 emissions), they are rarely reported or discussed, and it is usually the waste industry that is left to deal with them. Whatever items are thrown at us, we’re the ones who have to figure out how to dispose of them and, when they can’t be recycled, reused or reprocessed, they go to our Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities.

While these facilities generate green electricity for the National Grid, it is the remaining emissions which are now attracting attention. The recent Government consultation on the long-awaited UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) proposes that for the first time, emissions from waste incineration plants will be included in the calculations.

Inevitably, this means we will be asked to reduce emissions downwards and adopt decarbonisation technologies and practices – all of which is possible, but it comes at a price.

This is where facilities managers come in. While reporting Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions is par for the course these days, the lack of measuring and monitoring of Scope 3 emissions undoubtedly hinders an organisation’s progression towards its carbon targets. And, when you consider that Scope 3 emissions are considered to constitute a huge percentage of the CO2 generated, it’s clear that change is needed.

By adopting measurement techniques that provide accurate reporting, FMs can improve their organisation’s sustainability, help move closer towards net zero carbon targets and drive greater awareness and increased transparency in their supply chain.

Within the waste industry, we’re doing our bit too.

I’ve always said that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so next year will see the introduction of a new system at our joint venture Lakeside Energy from Waste* facility, adjacent to our operation at Colnbrook, near Slough.

This clever piece of kit will continuously monitor the Scope 3 emissions which come out of our chimney. It will be able to determine the amount of biogenic emissions (from burning organic material) versus fossil fuel emissions (from burning fossil fuels) – currently there is an arbitrary industry average of a 50-50 split between the two.

By identifying the true percentage of each, our hope is this data will persuade FMs to engage with suppliers who are reducing their reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and plastics containing embedded fossil carbon; instead choosing to work with those who are investing in more organic materials, such as wood, food, plants and paper, where CO2 is included as part of a natural cycle.

Having real figures around Scope 3 emissions should give us (and FMs) the evidence to help precipitate change and increase sustainability. It won’t happen overnight and indeed, it will probably be around 2026 before the monitoring data is robust enough, but we have to start somewhere.

Inevitably, this investment in Post Combustion Technology doesn’t come cheap and we fully recognise businesses and councils will always want the best price when it comes to their waste management.

That is something we are committed to providing but, as an industry, we cannot (and should not) be left to pick up the bill for someone else’s indiscretions.

I urge FMs to look to their supply chain, to consider the benefits of working with suppliers who choose transparency and a willingness to embrace net zero to help measure and understand the impact of Scope 3 emissions both now and in the future.

Sooner or later, those additional Scope 3 management costs will filter down from the waste industry and land on the desk of polluters who are creating them. And when (as inevitably will be the case) we are asked why waste bills are rising, I will say it’s because too many organisations have swept the management and disposal of their Scope 3 emissions under the carpet for far too long.

This technology should help everyone better understand what they are paying for, but until it comes, there is plenty that can be done to keep future costs down.

So I urge FMs to recognise the role they can play by making the right procurement decisions now, and see them as an important step forward in reducing both the impact on our environment and their bottom line.

*Lakeside Energy from Waste is a joint venture between Grundon Waste Management and Viridor – part of the FTSE 250 Pennon Group plc.

About Sarah OBeirne

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