Published Oct 27, 2014
Waste to energy is a form of generating power or energy from otherwise discarded resources. Countries like Sweden have had great success generating energy from recycled matter and are helping push the green movement into a larger global spotlight. Here are five types of waste that are able to provide us with power:
Sweden’s initiative to burn garbage in incinerators, providing heat for residential and commercial properties, has been incredibly successful. Only 4% of the waste generated in Sweden ends up in landfills now, and the country actually ran out of garbage to burn and began importing trash from its neighboring countries. Utilizing this technology, the country has been able to use trash to provide 20% of their total heat and dramatically reduce the amount of waste that sits in landfills.
2. Animal Waste and Sewage
Animal waste can easily be turned into manure or fertilizer, but with environmental controls tightening the use of waste on commercial properties, additional ways to utilize the waste is becoming more attractive. Anaerobic digestion of these wastes can be used to produce a biogas which can be used as fuel for combustion engines, in small gas turbines to generate electricity, or used for cooking or space heating. Human sewage can be anaerobically digested in a similar fashion to produce the same biogas.
3. Industrial Food Wastes
The food industry produces a great deal of by-products and residues that can be used to generate power. These waste materials includes fruit and vegetable peels, scraps, and foods that don’t meet production standards. Liquid waste material can also be produced when washing food, cleaning or when making things like wine. These waters are rich in organic material and sugars which can be utilized the same way as solid waste. Both can be fermented to produce ethanol or digested, similarly to wastes, to produce biogas.
4. Forest Residue
Foresting produces a great deal of solid waste, like off-cuts, bark, sawdust and rejected woodchips. While these scraps are typically left to waste on-site of the operations, they can be collected and passed through a biomass gasifier. This process will create hot gases that can be utilized to generate steam power.
5. Tire Derived Fuel
Though it might catch many off guard, tire derived fuel (TDF) is one of the most beneficial energy sources from scrap products. Fuel derived from tires is so valuable because of the high amounts of heat it provides comparatively to oil and coal. TDF produces the same amount of energy as oil and 25 percent more energy compared to coal. The EPA recognizes that the use of tire-derived fuels is a viable alternative to the use of fossil fuels. In 2003, 130 million tires were used as tire derived fuel. This is an industry that can change the fuel industry and that everyone can participate in.
6. Sugar Cane
Another industry that generates tons of solid waste that can be utilized for power is the sugar cane industry. Bagasse is a fibrous material that is left over from sugar cane stalks after they have been crushed for their juice. Bagasse is a terrific source of power because it is so common and can be used to feed boilers to produce steam for the production of electricity and heat. Some mills are able to produce so much electricity by utilizing Bagasse that they exceed their own needs and provide additional electricity back to the grid.
It is critical for human beings to develop ways to reduce fossil fuels and create environmentally sustainable methods of power production so we can begin improving the environment. By finding ways to reuse our waste to create additional power, we are taking an important first step in becoming a truly sustainable society and providing a better world for generations to come.