Waste-to-Energy Solutions

Leonard Harley
Oct 11, 2017 · 4 min read

The concept of using waste to generate energy is not new. Incineration, which generally entails burning municipal and industrial waste to produce heat, and power generators that produce electricity for distribution, has been around for years. Traditional methods are, however, extremely inefficient and typically emit high concentrations of harmful emissions and toxins into the atmosphere.

There are a number of new and exciting Waste-to-Energy technologies and solutions that make energy generation more efficient while lowering associated emissions. This means that we become less reliant on other waste management techniques that do considerable harm to the environment such as landfill and incineration while producing climate-friendly energy fuel sources.

The Environmental Impact of Waste Disposal

Industrial waste involves larger scale chemical and toxic material disposal which further adds to the complexities of waste management. As plastics and other materials break down, usually over vast amounts of time, they release chemicals and gasses into the surrounding soils and into the atmosphere, with some chemicals even making their way into water tables. The effects of unchecked industrial waste pollution are lasting and often irreversible.

New Approaches to Waste Management

Waste Processing Practices

  • Landfill and dump sites need to be designed in such a way so as to minimize chemicals, gasses, and litter leaching into the surrounding environment.
  • Recycling involves large-scale waste separation operations, be they urban or industrial. Storage and distributions of recyclable materials can be difficult to manage as there is often no consistency in the quality and quantity of each material you separate.
  • As mentioned above, incineration is great for reducing the mass of materials, however, the process can be extremely toxic, particularly when plastics, paints and other synthetic materials are burned. Incineration can be used for energy production and heat distribution, but the efficiency of this technique generally varies from poor to insufficient and it involves unchecked pollutants entering the atmosphere.

Turning Waste into Energy

  • Anaerobic Digestion — a biochemical conversion of organic material that goes through a fermentation process where enzymes break down and decompose organic materials. Depending on the organic matter, methane and alcohol can be captured during the decomposition process.
  • Landfill Gas Recovery — various techniques that capture gases that are released from the slow decomposition of landfill. The main gas released is methane which can be used as a cooking gas or even in some types of engines and turbines.
  • Gasification — a process of chemical decomposition of organic matter, such as coal waste and animal waste, that is exposed to heat and reduced oxygen. The molecules of the waste are broken down into gas which is known as producer gas, Biogas or Syngas. These gases can be readily used in turbine engines that produce electricity. The resultant clean gases can also be further processed for multiple other uses such as liquefaction into common liquid fuels for transport, electricity production, chemical conversion into hydrogen, methane and other chemicals used in industry.

Of all the techniques, gasification is proving to be one of the most promising for disposing of waste materials and capturing gases that can be used as fuel. It can make use of various types of waste material, also known as feedstock, such as municipal solid waste, oil residue and waste, petroleum coke, general biomass, refuse-derived fuel and coal waste.

The ability to use coal waste in the gasification process is creating a lot of enthusiasm for electricity generation projects in Africa where coal waste is abundant.

The Role of Carbon Mitigation

Blockchain technology can be applied to create efficiency in markets where the exchange of Waste-to-Energy and other types of natural assets can flourish. This has a democratizing effect on the market and means that individuals and communities will no longer have to rely on industry giants to provide the solutions described above.

EarthTokens

A decentralised blockchain based natural asset exchange with an accompanying Earth Token (EARTH) cryptocurrency allowing stakeholders in the USD $120 trillion natural capital value chain to explore vast untapped market segments.

Leonard Harley

Written by

Environmental sustainability, entrepreneur, coder, blockchain in the environmental sustainability space. http://impactchoice.com http://earth-token.com

EarthTokens

A decentralised blockchain based natural asset exchange with an accompanying Earth Token (EARTH) cryptocurrency allowing stakeholders in the USD $120 trillion natural capital value chain to explore vast untapped market segments.