Waste-to-energy (WtE), also known as energy-from-waste (EfW), is the process of burning municipal solid waste in a large incinerator to generate electricity. It is a relatively new addition to the waste management and recovery sector that is gradually gaining popularity as more and more countries adopt this technology.
By burning waste, waste-to-energy technology aims to solve the global problems of increasing rubbish generation and depleting landfill spaces. This method also targets the growing demand for energy.
The Waste-to-Energy Method at a Glance
There are several systems that convert waste into energy, but the most widely known method is the thermal process of mass-burn or direct combustion.
This method takes place in a huge incinerator where the waste collected by dump trucks is discarded into the waste storage bunker. The waste is then transferred to the combustion chamber where it is incinerated. As the waste burns, heat energy is produced and is used to heat the water in the boiler to generate high-pressure steam. This steam causes the blades of the turbine generator to turn and generate electricity.
How Waste-to-Energy Can Help Solve Our Problem with Rubbish
Every year, we produce approximately 2.01 billion tonnes of rubbish worldwide. And as the global population is expected to grow in the coming years, so is our waste generation. By 2050, we will be producing around 3.40 billion tonnes of waste. This increase in our rubbish generation will further aggravate our current problem with the lack of available landfill spaces.
Waste-to-energy, however, can help solve this problem. Burning waste significantly reduces the volume of waste materials by 87-90% and their weight by 75%. Thus, by converting waste into ash, we can reduce the space they will occupy in our landfills.
How Waste-to-Energy Can Help Solve our Increasing Demand for Energy
Likewise, because of the burgeoning population, there is a growing concern about our supply of energy. As our non-renewable energy sources slowly get exhausted, we need to look for more renewable energy sources that will solve our increasing demand for energy. Fortunately, burning waste is a renewable energy source.
Waste generation is inevitable. Every day, we produce solid waste at home, in the office, or in any other setting. We also generate waste even from simple daily tasks such as cooking food, gardening and buying groceries. Because of this, waste is essentially a non-exhaustible resource because it regularly gets replenished. Thus, we will never run out of rubbish supply for waste-to-energy conversions.
Is Energy Produced by Waste-to-Energy Systems Clean?
As you can see from the process of direct combustion, the energy-rich waste collected is only used as a fuel. They are burned to produce heat which creates steam from the water in the boiler. In that step, no matter how dirty or unclean the waste materials incinerated are, they don’t affect the resulting steam in the boiler.
The high-pressure steam will then propel the turbine generator to create mechanical energy that will be used to generate electricity. Thus, the energy generated from waste is not only usable, but it is also clean.
Are Waste-to-Energy Facilities Clean?
Because waste-to-energy plants involve burning massive amounts of waste, it raises the issue of air pollution. However, modern waste-to-energy facilities are much cleaner than traditional ones.
Today’s waste-to-energy plants follow strict guidelines to ensure that the air they release into the atmosphere is within the air quality standards. They also have a pollution control system that collects air pollutants such as particulates, nitrogen oxide, mercury, dioxin, and acid gas.
Waste-to-energy has proven itself to be an extremely useful technology in managing the waste we produce, as well as in solving our increasing demand for clean and renewable energy. However, waste-to-energy systems are expensive, and they take years of planning and building.
Furthermore, we don’t have enough WtE facilities in place at present. In Australia, our first waste-to-energy system is yet to operate. The Kwinana thermal waste-to-energy plant will be located near the city of Perth and will only process around 400,000 tonnes of the city’s residential, commercial, and industrial waste.
Thus, while we don’t have enough recycling and WtE facilities in the country, we need to continue strengthening our proper waste management practices. We need to reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost the waste we generate. Moreover, we should also always segregate the rubbish we generate.
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If you need help in managing your household rubbish in Sydney, Kurt’s expert team of rubbish removalists is here to help you with our household rubbish removal services. We will collect and dispose of your waste in the most efficient manner. Moreover, we will also segregate and ensure that your rubbish will be recycled.