From Waste to energy – Market and policy
What is waste to energy (WtE) ? It is the process of converting non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste into energy/heat/fuel source in a possible economical and sustainable way. With the increase in population both at urban and rural level there is a tremendous increase in the demand for various resources which eventually lead to simultaneous increase in generation of waste particularly non-degradable one. which has become a major topic of debate globally and has risen significant public consciousness due to its negative impact on habitats and species. Recycling and reuse is not the option in some scenario which has led the raise the importance of WtE, which can reduce waste up to 90% of volume, which will further reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by the waste.
Most WtE processes generate electricity and/or heat directly through combustion, or produce a combustible fuel commodity, such as methane, methanol, ethanol. or synthetic fuels. Whether that’s electricity or heat – that can then be used in homes and businesses is a logical part of this move towards circular thinking. With world resources finite, increasing global warming, depleting fossil fuels, and increasing public awareness of the harmful effects of our ‘throwaway culture’, a move towards what’s known as a circular economy seems a sensible option.
A range of new Waste-to-Energy (WtE) technologies are promising in terms of offering electricity, heat and transport fuels. These technologies have the potential for increasing electric efficiency, substituting transport fuels and storing waste fractions and fuel. They will thus contribute to an increased flexibility in the energy system compared to the current practice of waste incineration with a high constant production of heat.
Incineration – It is a combustion process wherein carbon and hydrogen compounds in the waste oxidizes to produce energy in the form of power and heat. 2. Pyrolysis – Thermal decomposition of carbon-based material through use of indirect, external source of heat. 3. Gasification – Thermal process of converting carbonaceous material into syngas, this process can be seen between pyrolysis and incineration as it involves partial oxidation. 4. Anerobic digestion – bio-microbial conversion of waste into energy under oxygen-less system. Every technique has into own merit and demerit. Choosing most economical and sustainable technique at given situation is therefore very important and crucial while considering cost and efficiency. Environmental issues are in general analyzed with a different focus than energy resource issues.
For example, anaerobic digestion is the most preferred technique in terms of air pollution and environmental friendliness and cost, followed by pyrolysis, gasification and lastly incineration. Whereas incineration is preferred in terms of the capacity and maturity, but it is energy intensive. When compared net energy generation potential of various WtE method – incineration, pyrolysis and gasification have more capacity then Anaerobic digestion. In terms of capital cost, anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis is cost-effective compared to gasification and incineration. To conclude, anerobic system is most sustainable and cost- effective and more research on this process could possibly increase its energy potential. It can help us meeting Paris agreement 2015 for attaining carbon-negative by 2050 due to its negative carbon-dioxide characteristics. Syngas is equally efficient however does requires scaling from pilot to commercial scale. Additionally when compared their carbon reducing capacity – anaerobic digestion can reduce CO2 by 3.1 Mt/year and the Syngas by 0.9 Mt/year.
Given the importance of WtE towards sustainable waste management and energy production. Current government and authorities must comply with the existing waste management hierarchy when developing waste policy. The five steps of the hierarchy are:1. Waste prevention (preferred option) 2. Re-use 3. Recycling 4. Recovery (including energy recovery) 5. Safe disposal (as a last resort). Even if the waste hierarchy is strictly followed there may still be a fraction of waste left which cannot be used for other purposes than energy recovery or disposal. Therefore WtE is way out and the Global waste to energy market size was valued at USD 17,271.4 Million in 2019 and is projected to reach USD 27,700.8 Million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2019 to 2025.Increased domestic and industrial waste has prompted governments across regions to generate energy from waste.
Furthermore, the increased investment by various governing bodies, particularly in developing countries in Asia-Pacific, such as China and India, coupled with rapid urbanization and significant growth in consumer spending capacity, is expected to drive global waste to the size of the energy market in the forecast period. Approach such as anaerobic digestion is considered more environmentally friendly than thermal techniques, and their market penetration is expected to grow over the forecast period.It is expected that high installation costs and toxic gas emissions during incineration would impede market growth over the forecast period.
Thermal technologies have emerged as the leading technology employed to produce energy from waste. In 2019, the segment generated 87 percent of total market revenue.Asia-Pacific is projected to witness the highest growth rate from 2018 to 2025, mainly due to the rise in demand for energy. The rise in industrialization, coupled with rapid urbanization activities in emerging economies such as China and India, is expected to drive the market during the forecast period.In 2017 Europe, in terms of sales, retained the leading waste to the energy market share. This dominance is attributed to the rise in the production of municipal solid waste (MSW), combined with the increase in energy demand. This region is investing heavily in developing renewable energy production.
To conclude, The use of WtE facilities has proven to be one of the best ways of managing waste. WTE helps lower greenhouse gases and provides energy and material recovery. WtE also help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for electricity, which leads to the reduction of greenhouse gas. WtE would also help increase the recycling rate of the city. Building WTE plant might still be a problem due to the misconceptions surrounding WTE facilities. When people hear WTE, they think back to the old incinerators that were used in the 20th century. Therefore, it is essential to develop programs that would educate people about the benefit of having WTE in the and the differences between modern anaerobic digetsion plants and the incinerators from 20th century. WTE has more benefits than any effect it might have on the environment.