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Waste Manag Res. 2007 Jun;25(3):214-9.

Drivers for innovation in waste-to-energy technology.

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  • 1Martin GmbH für Umwelt- und Energietechnik, Leopoldstrasse 248, D-80807 München, Germany.


This paper summarizes developments made in the field of waste-to-energy technology between the 1980s and the present. In the USA, many waste-to-energy systems were developed in the 1980s and early 1990s. These plants generated power relatively efficiently (typically 23%) in 60 bar/ 443 degrees C boilers. Unfortunately, the development came to a stop when the US Supreme Court rejected the practice of waste flow control in 1994. Consequently, waste was directed to mega-landfills, associated with very negative environmental impacts. However, given landfill taxes and increased fuel prices, new waste-to-energy projects have recently been developed. Attractive premiums for renewable power production from municipal waste have been introduced in several European countries. This triggered important innovations in the field of improved energy recovery. Examples of modern waste-to-energy plants are Brescia and Amsterdam with net efficiencies of 24 and 30%, respectively. Incineration is traditionally preferred in Japan due to space constraints. New legislation promoted ash melting or gasification to obtain improved ash quality. However, these processes reduce the efficiency in terms of energy, cost and availability. A new oxygen-enriched waste-to-energy system is under development in order to better achieve the required inert ash quality.

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