The Market Size
Global Waste generation has not been quantified but we can certainly imagine that it is a higher multiple of the US MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) levels, which is greater than 250 million tons per year, per the EPA. Hence, the global MSW market is expected to be several Trillion tons per year, and rising, considering that the US represents 5% of the worlds population.
Global Clean energy market is over $1.1 Trillion and growing at a 20% pace per year, per AEEI (Advanced Energy Economy Institute). In the US this market represents $157 Billion in 2011 and growing due the certain state and federal mandates to increase renewable energy consumption. 38 States have renewable energy mandates/portfolios ranging from 33% to 15%. Please go to www.cs2es.org for more information.
Energy Recovery from Waste
Energy recovery from waste is the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into useable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes, including combustion, gasification, pyrolization, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas (LFG) recovery. This process is often called Waste-to-Energy (WTE).
Converting non-recyclable waste materials into electricity and heat generates a renewable energy source and reduces carbon emissions by offsetting the need for energy from fossil sources and reduces methane generation from landfills.
Currently there are 86 facilities in the United States for combustion of municipal solid waste (MSW), with energy recovery. These facilities are located in 25 states, mainly in the Northeast. No new plants have been built in the US since 1995, but some plants have expanded to handle additional waste and create more energy. The 86 facilities have the capacity to produce 2,720 megawatts of power per year by processing more than 28 million tons (11%) of waste per year. After energy is recovered, approximately ten percent (10%) of the volume remains as ash or by-products.
Municipal Solid Waste is a Valuable Resource
Municipal solid waste (MSW) is composed of different materials or commodities. It is not simply trash. MSW contains valuable commodities such as paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel, and energy.
An integrated waste management system considers fluctuating recycling markets, energy potential, and long-term landfill cost and capacity to make a waste management strategy that is sustainable. Commodity prices can fluctuate. What is economically preferable one year is not always environmentally preferable in the long run. However, by following the hierarchy of environmental preference, communities can ensure their economic decisions regarding MSW management are environmentally sound as well.
One difficult variable to consider when developing an integrated waste management system is time. In other words, over what time period should the benefits and costs of managing MSW be considered? Competing interests do not always have the same time frames: budget planning, capital projects, and election cycles vary in length; thus, more effort must be made to balance short term benefits with long term costs.
Non-Hazardous Waste Management Hierarchy
Waste Management Hierarchy from most preferred to least preferred is: source reduction and reuse, recycling or composting, energy recovery and disposal
Integrated Waste Management Hierarchy
Designed to show the most environmentally preferable options for waste management, the hierarchy places emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling the majority of wastes. Reducing MSW generation is the most effective way to address waste management costs and prevent the use of virgin materials. Reusing materials in the MSW generated is the second best method. Capturing the material value of MSW through recycling should be considered next. Source-separated yard waste can be composted aerobically to produce a soil conditioner product or used in landfills, in place of soil, as an alternative daily cover. Source-separated mixed food and yard wastes, can be anaerobically digested to generate methane for energy generation and a compost product that can provide soil amendment value. Combustion or gasification with energy recovery, or waste-to-energy (WTE), is the environmentally preferable route for mixed solid wastes that are neither recyclable nor compostable. From an environmental standpoint, landfilling MSW is the least preferred option. However, community decisions are based both on environmental and economic factors.
- Source Reduction and Reuse
- Combustion with Energy Recovery
- Landfilling and Incineration without Energy Recovery