Waste to energy—technologies
Produced in partnership with WSP Environmental

The following Energy practice note produced in partnership with WSP Environmental provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Waste to energy—technologies
  • Where does the waste come from?
  • Mixed residual waste
  • The proximity principle
  • Incineration
  • Other WtE technologies
  • Pyrolysis and gasification
  • Incineration v pyrolysis and gasification
  • Anaerobic Digestion
  • Combined heat and power

Waste to energy—technologies

Energy from waste is energy that is recovered by various technologies. Recyclable material should be removed first and then energy recovered from the residual waste. The different technologies are:

  1. incineration—in which the residual waste is burned and the energy recovered as electricity or heat

  2. pyrolysis and gasification—where the fuel is heated with little or no oxygen to produce gas for generating energy or as a feedstock for producing methane, chemical, biofuels or hydrogen

  3. anaerobic digestion—which uses microorganisms to convert against waste into a methane-rich biogas that can be combusted to generate electricity and heat or converted to bio-methane. This technology is most suitable for wet organic waste or food waste. The other output is biofertiliser

  4. landfill gas—by capturing landfill gas produced at landfill sites as waste decomposes

Waste to energy (WtE) is an important method of managing waste and creating a sustainable energy source. Using waste as fuel can have important environmental benefits. It can provide a safe and cost-effective way of disposing of waste and help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, reusing, recycling and composting are still considered to be more environmentally friendly methods of dealing with waste than burning it. Strict environmental standards now apply in all European countries governing the emissions from WtE plants.

There are three principal thermal technologies used for municipal waste: incineration, pyrolysis and gasification. There are

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