Waste to Energy: Beyond Incineration

When you hear the term, “Waste to Energy,” what comes to mind? Likely, you’ve never pictured all the “opportunity fuels” and pathways that exist in the world of Waste to Energy (WTE).

We recently came across a great article, “Waste to Energy: An Opportunity Too Good to Waste, or a Waste of Time?” – written by Una Nowling. This piece does an excellent job providing a general overview of what Waste to Energy means. Because WTE is such a complex topic, and can provide solutions for some difficult to recycle materials, we wanted to take a moment to share Nowling’s article and highlight some key facts:

  1. Waste to Energy is more than just incineration. Yes, incineration is one form of WTE available. However, the concept of recovering energy from waste encompasses many processes and outlet types. For instance, incineration falls under the WTE outlet category of “Thermal Treatment.” However, some WTE outlets use what’s know as “Active Biological Treatment” (breaking down waste, like food waste, into biogas or bioliquids), and a third category uses “Passive Biological Utilization.” Anaerobic digesters are just one example of the many other WTE outlets that exist beyond incineration.
  2. There is a high variability among waste fuels. Many things, from orange peels to plastic bags, might become waste fuel. However, each WTE processes has its own fuel requirements and energy outputs, and these can vary greatly across the industry. It is essential that companies know and follow all regulations regarding what materials can be disposed via what Waste to Energy process.
  3. Costs and benefits will vary. The variable types of wastes and processing methods for Waste to Energy come with a wide range of costs and benefits. Depending on the type of waste materials being used as fuel, the type of WTE processing facility, and the distance of the WTE facility from your business, using Waste to Energy outlets may or may not prove cost effective or beneficial for your recycling program. Companies interested in using Waste to Energy outlets should work with an expert in the waste and recycling industry to determine what outlets may best suit each waste stream.

To learn more about the complex world of Waste to Energy, read Nowling’s full article by clicking here.

***Feature Image Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock”