Turning Landfill to Power: How the Waste to Energy Market Could Lessen our Garbage Woes

Waste to energy is a solution that hopes to alleviate the ever-increasing burden of sustaining a consumer-oriented world. One of the greatest problems that we as a species are facing today is the enormous chunks of land being dedicated to disposing garbage. These landfills cannot be processed by regular means of recycling at any rate close enough to what they are being filled at.

These overfull local landfills are growing to be such a headache that developed economies are even exporting their waste products to developing ones. Needless to say, this is not an optimum solution in the long run, and mankind must look for a more sustainable model for taking care of its waste. One such method being explored in great detail is converting the waste products into energy and feeding it back into power distribution.

Global Waste to Energy Market Statistics Speak

Solutions offered by companies in the global waste to energy market are not only being regarded as an answer to the world’s waste issue, but are already being utilized on a large scales across many, mostly developed, countries. The global waste to energy market is progressing at a significant CAGR of 8.1% between 2013 and 2019. In 2012, this market was already recorded at US$18.4 bn and experts claim that by 2019, a total market size of US$31.8 bn is possible. This means that both national and international bodies are serious about reducing landfills in a cleaner manner.

How Waste to Energy Works

A waste to energy plant will accept industrial and public/municipal solid waste and eventually convert it into heat. The heat can either be used to create steam that powers turbines to produce electricity, or can be used directly as heat in a local district heating system. All in all, the process provides a cost-effective solution to recovering resources while reducing landfill size. This method is also clean because it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and also provides a good replacement for nonrenewable fuels.

Waste to energy is no new concept, as some of the first incinerators in the world were installed since 1874. Modern waste to energy plants may make use of methods other than simple incineration to produce heat. Some of the more common waste to energy technologies being used today include:

•    Pyrolysis, which is used to generate tar
•    Biochemical Fermentation, which converts sugars to biofuel
•    Gasification, which generates hydrogen and other gases from waste
•    Mechanical biological treatment, which combines anaerobic digestion with energy generation

Although many developed nations have stable waste to energy processes installed, the nation with the highest waste management that is sustainable is Japan. At the same time, India and China, with their massive waste production rates, have a significant potential of being key regions in the global waste to energy market. This puts Asia Pacific in a high priority spot for most of the key players in this market, including Veolia Environnement, Covanta Energy Corporation, and Suez Environment S.A.


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