Landfills are one of the largest sources of methane emissions in the United States. Waste to Energy technology provides companies with a way to reduce the amount of waste they contribute to landfills, creating a higher level of sustainability in the process.
Research has shown that there is great potential for this process to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions in the United States compared with combusting methane from landfills.
According to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), from 2001 to 2015, between 16.1 and 25.4 million tons of hazardous waste were disposed of each year on land.
While many people think of emissions as what bellows out of smokestacks, landfills can actually be a major contributor. That’s because hazardous substances that are disposed of in landfills can pollute surrounding water, and toxic gases like methane form when waste begins to decompose.
Cutting-edge waste to energy technology, on the other hand, keeps this waste out of landfills, therefore reducing emissions. Here’s how.
Waste To Energy Process
One of the alternative techniques to disposing waste is recycling. Industrial recovery and recycling has evolved over the years to now include waste to energy facilities, which typically incinerate garbage in an effort to turn solid waste into a gas.
Though incineration plants utilize the most common method of turning waste into energy, there are other technologies available as well that produce energy, such as:
- Depolymerization, which breaks down waste materials into crude oil products using thermal decomposition
- Gasification, which converts carbonaceous substances into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and small amounts of hydrogen … with the goal to use the synthesis gas that is created to produce electrical and heat sources
- Pyrolysis, which also generates electricity and heat by subjecting organic or agricultural waste to elevated temperatures to create an oil that is a renewable industrial fuel
Waste to energy plants continue to use innovative technologies to create a more sustainable environment and reduce hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.
Temarry Recycling, for example, has taken its waste to energy process one step further by introducing “True Recycling.” This truly Closed Loop Recycling process generates energy that then powers solvent recovery stills and autoclaves on site.
Here’s how the waste to energy process works:
- A conveyor transports the waste into the primary stage for thermal destruction at 1500 degrees F, and all vapors and gases then receive a secondary treatment.
- Inorganic solids, or ash, from the primary stage are quenched and then fall into an ash hopper.
- Heat is then directed to a 200-horsepower steam generator. The steam generated is used as an energy source to power solvent recovery stills and autoclaves.
- The remaining gases are directed to a modern two-stage venturi scrubber.
- Ash recovered from the ash hopper is blended with high BTU still bottoms, and controlled blends are sent to cement kilns to be used as alternative fuels.
Once the waste to energy process is completed, the solvent distillation and water treatment processes begin … essentially creating a closed loop recycling process that allows received waste to be treated and turned back into reusable products.
- Solvent distillation: 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: The water treatment process extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes. In turn, treated water is used on-site for industrial needs, including the waste to energy equipment and a cooling tower.
This system uses and reuses all components...nothing is wasted and all recycled solvents are reintroduced back into industries.
It’s important to note that any perceived waste to energy emissions that are emitted into the atmosphere from the venturi scrubber is instead clean water vapor.
How Sustainability Wins
So how does the waste to energy process, especially when used as part of Closed Loop Recycling, reduce emissions?
Reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills ultimately also reduces the amount of toxins, like methane and carbon dioxide, that are emitted as the waste breaks down.
According to the EPA, for every ton of garbage that a waste to energy facility processes, approximately 1 ton of emitted carbon-dioxide equivalent is prevented from going into the atmosphere.
For companies that partner with Temarry Recycling, there are additional benefits that improve a company’s sustainability and bottom line.
Currently, some companies send their spent solvents to fuel blending facilities in Kansas, Missouri and South Carolina. For companies located on the West Coast, this can be a long and costly trip.
Temarry Recycling, however, is located in Tecate, Mexico, just across the California-Mexico border. This reduction in transport distance reduces a company’s carbon footprint because less fuel is used for transport. That decrease in fuel usage also decreases costs.
Companies that partner with Temarry Recycling for the recycling of their waste can significantly reduce the amount of truck loads that are transported off site for secondary recycling at a cement kiln as well.
- For each 60 cubic yard box thermally treated on site at Temarry, one cubic yard of ash is generated.
- For each 100 gallons of typical solvents distilled, 30 gallons of still bottoms are generated to blend with ash.
Another benefit is a lower cradle to grave liability. Temarry Recycling is an EPA-authorized exporter of hazardous waste. Once your waste stream crosses the border, your liability for the waste stream ends.
Finally, in California, companies can take advantage of economic incentives through grant, payment and loan programs. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) offers several funding opportunities to assist companies with improving the sustainability of their waste stream management.
As manufacturing facilities look for ways to enhance their operations and increase their sustainability, waste to energy technology is leading the way.
Waste to energy keeps waste out of landfills, reduces harmful emissions and returns valuable resources to industry. Ultimately, this not only helps the environment, but puts a company in a position to be at the forefront of a sustainable movement.