Turning Waste into Energy
Waste-to-energy (WtE) or energy-from-waste (EfW) is the process of generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste, or the processing of waste into a fuel source. WtE is a form of energy recovery. Most WtE processes generate electricity and/or heat directly through combustion, or produce a combustible fuel commodity, such as methane, methanol, ethanol. or synthetic fuels.
Incineration, the combustion of organic material such as waste with energy recovery, is the most common WtE implementation. All new WtE plants in OECD countries incinerating waste (residual MSW, commercial, industrial or RDF) must meet strict emission standards, including those on nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), heavy metals and dioxins. Hence, modern incineration plants are vastly different from old types, some of which neither recovered energy nor materials. Modern incinerators reduce the volume of the original waste by 95-96 percent, depending upon composition and degree of recovery of materials such as metals from the ash for recycling.
Incinerators may emit fine particulate, heavy metals, trace dioxin and acid gas, even though these emissions are relatively low from modern incinerators. Other concerns include proper management of residues: toxic fly ash, which must be handled in hazardous waste disposal installation as well as incinerator bottom ash (IBA), which must be reused properly.
Critics argue that incinerators destroy valuable resources and they may reduce incentives for recycling. The question, however, is an open one, as European countries which recycle the most (up to 70%) also incinerate to avoid landfilling.
Incinerators have electric efficiencies of 14-28%. In order to avoid losing the rest of the energy, it can be used for e.g. district heating (cogeneration). The total efficiencies of cogeneration incinerators are typically higher than 80% (based on the lower heating value of the waste).
The method of incineration to convert municipal solid waste (MSW) is a relatively old method of WtE generation. Incineration generally entails burning waste (residual MSW, commercial, industrial and RDF) to boil water which powers steam generators that generate electric energy and heat to be used in homes, businesses, institutions and industries. One problem associated is the potential for pollutants to enter the atmosphere with the flue gases from the boiler. These pollutants can be acidic and in the 1980s were reported to cause environmental degradation by turning rain into acid rain. Modern incinerators incorporate carefully engineered primary and secondary burn chambers, and controlled burners designed to burn completely with the lowest possible emissions, eliminating, in some cases, the need for lime scrubbers and electro-static precipitators on smokestacks.
By passing the smoke through the basic lime scrubbers, any acids that might be in the smoke are neutralized which prevents the acid from reaching the atmosphere and hurting the environment. Many other devices, such as fabric filters, reactors, and catalysts destroy or capture other regulated pollutants. According to the New York Times, modern incineration plants are so clean that "many times more dioxin is now released from home fireplaces and backyard barbecues than from incineration. "According to the German Environmental Ministry, "because of stringent regulations, waste incineration plants are no longer significant in terms of emissions of dioxins, dust, and heavy metals".
There are a number of other new and emerging technologies that are able to produce energy from waste and other fuels without direct combustion. Many of these technologies have the potential to produce more electric power from the same amount of fuel than would be possible by direct combustion. This is mainly due to the separation of corrosive components (ash) from the converted fuel, thereby allowing higher combustion temperatures in e.g. boilers, gas turbines, internal combustion engines, fuel cells. Some are able to efficiently convert the energy into liquid or gaseous fuels:
Gasification: produces combustible gas, hydrogen, synthetic fuels
Thermal depolymerization: produces synthetic crude oil, which can be further refined
Pyrolysis: produces combustible tar/biooil and chars
Plasma arc gasification or plasma gasification process (PGP): produces rich syngas including hydrogen and carbon monoxide usable for fuel cells or generating electricity to drive the plasma arch, usable vitrified silicate and metal ingots, salt and sulphur
Anaerobic digestion: Biogas rich in methane
Fermentation production: examples are ethanol, lactic acid, hydrogen
Mechanical biological treatment (MBT)
MBT + Anaerobic digestion
MBT to Refuse derived fuel
Nara Loca Abadi is a recycled plastic specialist that concerned about the earth and environment by promoting the use of recycled PET flakes, recycled PET chips, recycled PP & HDPE granules to various plastic and polyester manufacturers.