Waste-to-Energy is a multifaceted concept; it means different things to different people, is underestimated in complexity and questionable in terms of profitability and carbon neutrality. Waste can be solid or liquid; gaseous waste products are referred to as emissions. Energy can be a stream of electrons injected into the grid as electricity or combustible fuel commodities such as ethanol or synthetic fuels. The emissions and the restriction thereof, from converting solid waste into energy have a significant impact on the way energy is generated. This discussion will be restricted to “organic” solid wastes.
The conversion of organic solid waste into energy is not a new technology. “In 1885, the U.S. Army built the nation’s first garbage incinerator on Governor’s Island in New York City harbor.”1
The solid waste-to-energy industry begins with disposable goods from every sector in the economy. Each sector generates different kinds of waste each varying in composition (see following
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