What a waste

One of the major issues confronting governments is what to do with the mountains of household waste and unused industrial resources produced daily. And the problem is getting worse, with experts predicting that humans will generate 11 million tons of solid waste each day by the close of this century.

A shift away from carbon-based energy sources towards renewables has become the new normal for many of the world’s economies. Alongside more established clean energy sources such as sun, wind or hydro power, another type of renewable and low-carbon energy is turning a global liability into an asset. The waste-to-energy (WTE) market is expanding rapidly around the world, offering a unique solution to a growing problem.

Heavy investment in renewable energy technologies, supported by government policies to encourage sustainable development, are driving China’s WTE sector. The southern Chinese city of Shenzhen is constructing the world’s largest waste-to-energy plant, with an expected daily capacity to incinerate 5,000 tonnes of the city’s vast trash problem from 2020. Captured residual heat from the incinerator drives a turbine which generates electricity as a by-product of the waste management process.

And this drive is being echoed in Europe, too.  As governments become increasingly aware of their environmental impact, countries like China and India are increasingly supportive of policies that promote more efficient and cost-effective solutions to waste management.

The European waste-to-energy market is also on the rise as producers across the continent adopt initiatives to manage household trash and commercial waste more efficiently. Waste-to-heat systems generate energy by processing different types of waste, including solid or semi-solid, excess gas and excess heat.

In Turkey, for example, the country’s largest egg producer has installed an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) system from Turboden, part of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group. This converts chicken manure into electricity and hot water for the production site. The system solves a major environmental issue by creating clean energy out of this unwanted waste.

Such innovative projects are part of a steady migration of global attitudes towards cleaner, more sustainable production. Growing global awareness among governments and private operators of the need to find more efficient alternatives to traditional waste management, could be the catalyst that drives the future of the waste to energy sector.

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