The average American produces 4.9 pounds of municipal solid waste a day. Waste-to-energy is a technologically advanced means of waste disposal that converts non-recyclable waste materials into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes, including combustion, gasification, anaerobic digestion and landfill gas recovery. Waste-to-energy is considered positively impactful to the environment, as it reduces carbon dioxide and methane emissions released from landfills.
What is waste-to-energy?
Waste-to-energy is the process of converting waste materials into usable energy through technological processes in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With the amount of waste produced increasing every day in connection to population growth, utilizing waste as a source of energy provides a energy solution while reducing greenhouse gas emissions that would have been released by landfills. Around one-third of the food produced gets wasted, with most of the food waste ending up in landfills, decomposing and releasing a 50/50 mix of methane and carbon dioxide.
Three prominent waste-to-energy technologies include:
- Combustion plants use a boiler to capture and convert released hear into electricity and steam
- Gasification and Pyrolysis generate electricity by heating the fuel without allowing enough oxygen for complete combustion
- Anaerobic digestion use microorganisms to convert organic waste into biogas that can be used to generate electricity
Read: New Transformative Energy Program Initiated by Biden Administration
What is net zero carbon?
Net zero carbon refers to the global process of adapting energy technologies to minimize human greenhouse gas emissions. Though eliminating human-made greenhouse gas emissions feels like an impossible task, the net-zero goal isn’t to stop human emissions, but rather to balance what we’re putting into the atmosphere by removing an equal amount of greenhouse gases. Achieving a balance between emissions released into the atmosphere and emissions taken out of the atmosphere is the goal of net zero carbon, also referred to as carbon neutrality.
Read: How Your Business Could Achieve Net Zero Energy Use
How do net zero carbon and waste-to-energy interact?
Waste-to-energy technologies can be used as part of the solution to reach net zero carbon emissions. As landfills already exist and produce greenhouse gas emissions, utilizing the existing waste to generate energy can help reduce the total amount of greenhouse gases reaching the atmosphere. However it is important that in utilizing waste-to-energy technologies, generating more waste is not promoted.
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