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Trash to treasure: A look at the technological options to turn waste to energy

  • Photo : Vignesh Kamath / Research Matters
    Photo : Vignesh Kamath / Research Matters

Scientists from Indian Institute of Technology- Dhanbad have been looking at the available technological options to turn waste to energy for an effective source of waste management and energy production.

Although technological advancements have advanced battery technologies and alternative energy sources, fossil fuels continue to be the preferred source of power for most countries globally. Traditional fuels like kerosene, natural gas, biomass, continue to be the primary source for 25% of households globally. However, a global movement against fossil fuels due to the threat they pose to the environment, has seen the rise of new alternative energy sources. One such option is the conversion of municipal waste into energy (WTE). The process converts solid waste into energy by either burning or by collecting the gases produced at landfill sites.

In their study, the scientists review the technological options for WTE, globally. Incineration or burning, pyrolisis (decomposing organic waste using high temperatures), gasification (converting organic material into carbon and hydrogen), anaerobic digestion (decomposing in the absence of oxygen) and land-filling with gas recovery, are some of the common methods used. While incineration was found to be the most widely used method in developed countries, land-filling was found to be the most common method for dealing with municipal solid waste in developing countries. Around 50 million tonnes of methane is produced at a landfilling site, which can then be collected and used. Unsanitary landfilling was also found to be common in many developing countries.

Conversion of waste into energy could not only provide the a part of the energy needs of a community, but can also help with dealing with the enormous amounts of organic and inorganic waste coming out of a city in a developed and developing countries. The scientists believe “this review will help the policy makers and the implementing authorities involved in MSWM to understand the current status, challenges and barriers for effective management of municipal solid waste”