Is waste merely a waste? NO.
Waste is a misplaced resource and unrecognized wealth.
It is wealth in the form of Energy. Waste to energy or Energy[wealth] from Waste[unrecognized asset] is a great concept which stands for production of clean, renewable energy through Physiological, Biochemical and Thermochemical methods by utilizing ‘so called wastes’ which range from agricultural residues[rice, husks, etc.], animal waste, forestry residues[extracted wood from pulp and timber, natural attrition, wood chip rejects, saw dust] to industrial waste[from food to steel industry], black liquor, sewage and Municipal Solid Waste.
Waste to energy plants have huge significance as they not only convert wastes into useful resources but have other benefits as well like they provide jobs with decent income according to ‘Energy Recovery Council’ the average waste to energy facility in the US is responsible for creation of 58 full time jobs which are generally salaried, skilled positions with relatively high pay and have at least a 40 year projected life. Waste to energy facilities typically reduce waste volumes by 90% and hence reduce landfills. Landfills also generate toxic gases such as methane, leachate, etc. which are responsible for lungs and heart diseases and also contribute to greenhouse gases which leads to climatic change. So less number of landfills implies lesser of these harmful gases. According to US ‘Environmental Protection agency’ greenhouse gas emissions witness a one Ton reduction for every ton of solid waste processed in waste to energy facilities. WTE plants reduce 2000 pounds of garbage to ash weighing about 300 pounds and reduce waste by 87%. Besides providing benefits of disposal and safe management of wastes these also produce base load clean and renewable energy. WTE facilities in US account for approximately 20% of all renewable electricity generation. Luxembourg based Clariter sought that its plastic recycling methods which convert them into Sulphur free, odorless and pure chemical: aliphatic solvent, white mineral, oils and paraffin snow waxes have witnessed a net negative carbon footprint. Recycling of bottom of metals further add to lucrative benefits of this technology.
Global market valued USD 31 Billion in 2019 and is projected to register a compound annual growth rate of [CAGR] of 7.4% from 2020 to 2027. The global WTE market is segmented on the basis of technology and region. Technology market is divided into Biochemical, Thermochemical and others. The thermal process involves recycling of energy from MSW [Municipal Solid Waste] at high temperature. The thermal technology includes several processes such as Incineration or Combustion, Gasification and Pyrolysis. The major difference among these processes is the amount of oxygen and temperature involvement that leads to conversion to final product Carbon Dioxide and water. Thermal segment accounted for 82.4% of total revenue in 2019. Waste is reduced to its original volume’s 10% through incineration. Biological segment is anticipated to highest growth rate in the waste to energy over the forecast period owing to gradual advancement of anaerobic decomposition technology. Governments across several developed countries are indulged in R&D activities to enhance the economic viability to anaerobic digestion facilities. Genetic engineering of organisms and advancement in reactor design are among key factors critical for enhancement of biological conversion of gases to fuels and co-products. The future growth of biological segment is attributed to environmental concerns and growing demand for cleaner vehicle fuels such as biogas in transport sector. In addition anaerobic decomposition technique is predicted to surpass market share of biological composting techniques for biodegradable trash generated from MSW [Municipal Solid Waste].
The global Waste to Energy market size is analyzed across North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and LAMEA: Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and rest of LAMEA. The market is in nascent stage. Rise in demand for power generation and inclination towards renewable source drive the demand for WTE in developed and emerging countries. At present Europe is a major player in WTE market. In Europe market accounted for largest Revenue share of 43% in 2019 owing to presence of market such as Suez, Veolia, Ramboll group A/S, EQTAB. North America occupied a prominent market share in 2019 owing to growing consumer awareness regarding environmental protection and climate change. Asia pacific is anticipated to be the fastest growing segment in WTE market with China and Japan offering a maximum potential for market growth. Increasing government funding for municipal solid waste management along with growing awareness regarding waste to energy plants across various economies like India, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand are bound to drive regional market growth. Industry players are focusing on research and development activities in order to reduce the technology cost associated with Waste to Energy power plants. Few companies are into vertical integration in order to strengthen the services. The companies are involved in expansion of their waste solubility capabilities. Some of the prominent players in the WTE market include: Hitachi Zosen Inova AG, Covanta holding Corporation, China Everbright International limited, Veolia Environment, Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC. Bub cock & Wilcox Enterprises Inc. , Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. , Xcel Energy Inc. , C&G Environment protection holdings, Forest Wheeler AG.
A collaborative approach in west midlands vicinity of UK with Wheelabrator a waste energy specialist is partnering with Verus Energy limited and Low Carbon. The collaborative effort will provide enough energy for around 70000 houses diverting 395000 heaps of garbage from landfills or export operations. A similar agreement between a waste management and Utility carries is underway in UAE.
Coming on to home market, in India around 92 plants with aggregate capacity of around 250MW have been set up for electricity generation from agricultural, industrial and urban waste. On an average 100 tons per day of MSW is required to generate 1MW power of energy. According to Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry report ‘Value of Waste 2015’ investors value WTE in India at almost $1.5billion, around 110000 Crores in 2017 and it is expected to grow about $11.70 by 2052. Indian companies in WTE are Sound craft Industries (Mumbai), Hyadroaii Tectonic limited (Navi Mumbai), Malhem Engineers Pvt. Ltd.(Pune), Ramky Enviio engineers ltd.(Hyderabad).
The impact of government regulations on global WTE market is quite fair. These regulations encourage use of WTE for meeting energy needs. The world has an immense waste issue. As per World Bank 2 billion tons of Civil Strong Waste is created internationally every year which is identical to the heaviness of Great Pyramid of Giza in rubbish. Various legislations have been passed for regulating the manner of waste disposal. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Urban affairs have together rolled out policies and programs to address these issues. However, most of these have failed to achieve their objectives due to lack of clarity and awareness among stakeholders. In India, Central government proposed rules for ‘Extended Producer responsibility’ which would make a manufacturer responsible for managing the waste after a consumer has used it. EPR was first introduced to manage electronic waste in 2012, government extended EPR to Plastic waste management rules in 2016. The draft Electricity Bill,2020 gives impetus to renewable energy. Further Canada has set a target of increasing the share of zero emitting resources to 90% by 2030. The target aims to promote use renewable and clean energy and contribute towards significant greenhouse reductions.
Covid-19 proved to be a wakeup call for sustainable infrastructure. Due to lockdown restrictions there was a rapid shift of wastes from commercial sector to residential. Communities still need better waste management services. WTE market is also affected due to Covid-19 due to less no. of workers allowed in plants and increasing amounts of wastes.
As we know there are very few things in this world that do not have two-faced implications, hence, WTE also has both Pros and Cons. Most dangerous wastes/gases produced by incinerators are CO2, SO2, NO and NO2. Burning of wastes is far from climatic neutral. Incinerators actually emit more CO2 than natural gas fired, coal fired, neutral gas fired or even oil fired power plants. In Denmark the poster child of Europe’s incineration industry recently discovered that incinerators were releasing twice the amount of CO2 than originally estimated. As a comparison, a study of US Environmental Protection Agency concluded that up to 42% of US greenhouse gas emissions could be mitigated through zero waste strategies. The city of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania became largest US city to declare bankruptcy due to financial cost of upgrading incinerators in 2011.
Waste to Energy is indeed a good way to extract energy from resources but it works against the circular economy, producing toxic waste, air pollution and climatic change. Hence must try to improve the available technologies and look for alternatives to lead better lives. So let’s stop living simply so that others may simply live, instead let’s start living great lives so that others may lead good ones. After all, we have the power to conserve.