Scattered across the United States are dozens of waste to energy facilities, each of them taking trash and turning it into energy that powers equipment, heats buildings and provides electricity to communities.
Although waste to energy plants only account for 0.4% of electricity generation, this sustainable process could play a much larger role in the future, especially as more countries look for ways to solve modern energy crises.
According to a World Economic Forum report, experts predict that energy prices will continue to rise as producers shift away from coal. This could help accelerate the energy transition to renewable options to avoid a stretched energy system that overuses constrained resources.
Below we’ll take a look inside waste to energy facilities and see a revolutionary approach to rethinking how we produce energy.
What Are Waste To Energy Facilities?
Waste to energy (WTE) facilities typically incinerate garbage in an effort to turn solid waste into a gas. In the case of Temarry Recycling contaminated rags, organic debris, PPE, and absorbents are the sources used to generate the steam necessary to power their solvent distillation process. More on this later. During this process, chemical energy transforms into thermal energy. Facilities burn or thermally destruct organics collected from waste at extremely high temperatures.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2019, 67 plants generated about 13 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by burning 25 million tons of municipal solid waste alone.
While producing electricity is often the motive behind the use of waste to energy facilities, there are additional benefits they provide as well including reducing the amount of trash that is dumped at landfills. In fact, waste to energy plants can reduce 2,000 pounds of trash into ash weighing just 300 to 600 pounds, according to the U.S. Energy Administration.
While there are currently 71 waste to energy facilities in the United States, this method of putting trash to good use is popular around the world, especially in countries like Japan and some European countries that have little space for landfills.
What Do Waste To Energy Facilities Look Like?
That often depends on the type of waste to energy facility since many employ different technologies.
The most common type of waste to energy facility in the United States is one that uses a mass-burn system. Waste is burned in a large incinerator, releasing heat. The heat then turns into steam in a boiler, and the steam begins to turn the blades of a turbine generator. This produces electricity.
Other technologies that produce energy include:
Depolymerization, which breaks down waste materials into crude oil products using thermal decomposition. This process takes materials and subjects them to high temperatures and pressure while in the presence of water. Long chain polymers are broken down into shorter chains, mimicking a natural geological process that produces fossil fuels.
Gasification, which converts carbonaceous substances into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Gasification uses high temperatures in the presence of oxygen. The synthesis gas that is created is used to produce a source of heat and electricity.
Pyrolysis, which subjects organic and agricultural waste to elevated temperatures, but without the use of oxygen or halogen. During this irreversible process, a solid, liquid or gas can be produced. Pyrolysis oil is used to generate heat and electricity as a renewable industrial fuel, as well as used as transportation fuel.
Plasma Arc Gasification, which takes compressed waste and turns it into gas that is ionized using a plasma torch. This process does not use combustion and can reduce how much waste is sent to landfills, while at the same time generating electricity.
At Temarry Recycling, their state-of-the-art waste to energy facility is just one part of their True Recycling process that operates using zero waste recycling. Here is what happens at Temarry Recycling.
Waste To Energy Begins A Closed Loop Process
BTU organic solids are converted into steam. Waste is fed by a conveyor into the primary stage for thermal destruction at 1500 degrees F. All vapors and gases are then directed to secondary thermal treatment at 1500 degrees F.
Inorganic solids, or ash, from the primary stage is quenched and falls into an ash hopper. Heat is then directed to a 200-horsepower steam generator. The remaining gases are directed to a modern two-stage venturi scrubber to ensure that only clean water vapor is emitted into the atmosphere.
Solvent Distillation Continues The Process
Using the steam from the waste to energy process as energy to power the recovery stills, spent solvents are re-manufactured. This allows the solvents to be sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
Water Treatment Finishes The Cycle
The water treatment process extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes. In turn, treated water is used on-site for industrial needs, including our venturi scrubber, cooling tower for solvent distillation and our primary combustion chamber used in the waste-to-energy process.
This closed loop recycling process takes the higher level of sustainability that waste to energy offers one step further by allowing received waste to be treated and turned back into reusable products. A true closed loop recycling system uses and reuses all components. Nothing is wasted and all recycled solvents are reintroduced back into industries.
The Benefits Of Waste To Energy Facilities
Manufacturing companies across the country continue to look for ways to increase their sustainability, cut costs and reduce the reliance on natural resources. Waste to energy facilities offer a solution to some of these wishes by keeping more waste out of landfills.
When part of a closed loop recycling process, waste to energy can provide additional benefits as well.
Reduced liability: Temarry Recycling operates its waste to energy plant just across the U.S.-Mexico border. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) mandates that you are responsible for your waste from the moment it is generated until it is legally disposed of., known as cradle to grave. When Temarry Recycling transports your waste across the border to Mexico, the liability of waste generators ends at the U.S. border where Recicladora Temarry de Mexico accepts generator liability.
Reduced transportation costs: For West Coast companies, sending waste to Mexico saves a substantial amount of transportation costs versus transporting their waste across the country to the nearest cement kilns.
Reduced carbon footprint: This shorter transportation distance also reduces a company’s carbon footprint due to less fuel consumption. To learn just how much of a carbon footprint you can save, use our free carbon footprint calculator.
As the push toward renewable energy continues, waste to energy facilities are becoming a more wide-spread solution to generating energy in a safer, more sustainable way. For manufacturing companies, waste to energy offers an opportunity to more responsibly discard waste while keeping materials at their highest value … especially when part of a true recycling process.