Home Waste Management Understanding the Waste-to-Energy Industry

Understanding the Waste-to-Energy Industry


NATIONAL REPORT—The amount of waste we’re producing globally is growing at an exponential rate. By 2025 we’re expected to be generating 2.2 billion tons of municipal solid waste annually—a prediction that stresses the need to develop and adopt new waste management strategies.

When you combine this with the rising importance of switching to alternative energy sources in order to limit the effects of climate change, the waste-to-energy industry stands out as being at the forefront of addressing both challenges.

While it remains under-utilized in a world still relying on landfill and fossil fuels, we are likely to see the sector grow stronger in the near future.

How Do Waste-to-Energy Plants Work?

Waste-to-energy is the process of converting non-recycling waste in order to generate energy in the form of electricity and/or heat. The method recovers energy from waste that would otherwise add to already overflowing landfill sites.

Waste-to-energy is typically done through combustion or producing a combustible fuel such as methane and ethanol. Two tons of waste equals one ton of coal, while four tons of waste equals one ton of oil, making waste-to-energy plants a viable option for better managing our waste.

What Are the Benefits of Waste-to-Energy Plants?

As well as providing more highly-skilled jobs, modern waste-to-energy plants offer a wealth of benefits.

Primarily, the process is proven to reduce greenhouse emissions by reducing the volume of waste sent to landfill and replacing the use of fossil fuel. For years countries have dealt with their waste by burying it or dumping it at sea—both of which are incredibly harmful to our environment.

While our seas face well-known pollution problems, landfill sites generate methane and other harmful greenhouse gases. Reducing our reliance on landfill not only reduces these gases but also protects precious natural land.

Waste-to-energy plants located in communities have also been shown to reduce the need for transporting waste over long distances by truck, resulting in less air pollution and less traffic. Landfill sites on the other hand are often located far from the communities contributing to them.

There has been a concern that waste-to-energy adoption will lessen the impetus on recycling, however the European countries that are making use of these facilities boast the highest recycling rates in the continent.

Advancing Technology Burning waste has not always been 100 percent efficient, but in a rapidly developing industry of growing importance, technological advances are putting advanced conversion facilities at the heart of the sustainable power revolution.

With the help of engineering experts organizations are constantly improving and upgrading the safety, performance and reliability levels of their waste-to-energy plants. The progress made in the sector in the past decade only stands to further position waste-to-energy as a viable waste-management and alternative energy solution.