Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facilities divert post-recycled, non-hazardous waste from methane-producing landfills to mitigate greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Our Waste-to-Energy facilities are designed to convert the waste into electricity for homes and businesses and/or steam for export to industries. Waste-to-energy facilities are highly regulated by state and federal governments and requires highly trained staff and the latest state-of-the-art emissions control equipment which protects our environment.
Collectively, the United States’ Waste-to-Energy facilities divert 94,000 tons of waste per day from landfills that represents seven percent of the country’s waste stream. Our WTE facilities produce renewable energy to power the equivalent of 2.3 million homes. This is a $10 billion dollar industry that employs more than 6,000 American workers.
These facilities are located from coast-to-coast and provide towns and cities, including New York City, Honolulu, HI and Miami, FL with local and sustainable waste management that reuses our natural resources to create energy and support a circular economy.
Waste-to-energy is the better alternative to landfilling for managing MSW that is not recyclable, a reality explicitly recognized by the waste management hierarchy recommended by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union. With 76 WTE facilities in the U.S. and 410 in Europe (and many more in operation and under construction or planned in Asia and elsewhere), WTE is a proven technology for heating, cooling, industrial processes and electric power production that displaces fossil fuels and at the same time has a significantly lower carbon (greenhouse gas) footprint compared to landfilling. WTE also has the added benefit of destroying contaminated materials that contain pathogens and viruses.
Marco J Castaldi PhD
Chemical Engineering Department
The City College of New York
City University of New York
What is Waste-to-Energy?
Waste-to-Energy takes non-hazardous waste – otherwise destined for landfill – and combusts it through a highly-regulated process at extremely high temperatures to generate steam for electricity production while emissions are filtered and cleaned to minimize environmental impact.
Annually, Waste-to-Energy facilities capture hundreds of thousands of tons of metal for recycling.
How does WTE impact the environment?
99.9+% of what comes out of the stack are normal components of air.
After passing through a state-of-the-art emissions control system, water vapor, nitrogen, oxygen, and CO2 are some of the components released from the stack.
How is WTE regulated?
Waste-to-Energy is highly regulated and must adhere to strict federal and state guidelines to ensure protection of public health even in the most vulnerable populations.
Most facilities operate well below stringent emissions standards, and all are protective of human health and the environment.
Ash residue is non-hazardous and is tested regularly using the US EPA’s testing protocols. It is disposed of in accordance with federal guidelines and where possible reused for asphalt and roads.
How does Waste-to-Energy impact recycling and waste management?
Communities with waste-to-energy facilities have a higher recycling rate than the national average— with some reaching over 50 percent.
In addition, waste-to-energy facilities are oftentimes one of the largest recyclers in the local community by recovering metals for recycling.
Waste-to-energy facilities also recover more than 700,000 tons of metal each year for recycling – the equivalent amount of steel to build more than seven Golden Gate Bridges and four billion aluminum cans.
Waste-to-Energy does not compete with recycling for economic reasons. The facilities are limited by the amount of steam they can make, and in turn, the amount waste they can process. Taking large quantities of high heat content materials, like paper and plastics, reduces the amount of waste that a facility can process overall and since most waste-to-energy revenues come from waste tipping fees, revenues would decrease when processing large amounts of paper and plastics.
In the U.S., there are still 250 million tons of waste going to landfills each year. According to the U.S. EPA and the EU waste hierarchy, the preferred method to deal with waste after recycling is waste-to-energy.
How does WTE help us on the path towards
WTE is a large-scale solution for sustainable waste management and complements other waste reduction initiatives like reduce, reuse, recycling and composting while the infrastructure and behavioral change needed for success increases.
WTE in the United States:
Processes 30 million tons of waste annually
the equivalent of garbage trucks taking up a 8 lane highway from Los Angeles to New York City
the equivalent of 255 acres with garbage 100 feet high
Powers more than 2,000,000 homes with energy from waste
Recycles enough metal to build seven Golden gate Bridges and produce four billion aluminum cans