Canadian plastics expert Greg Wilkinson lays out opportunities for waste-to-energy

Today on E&E TV, Greg Wilkinson, President and CEO of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, discussed the new study from Columbia University that looked at the potential for non-recycled used plastics to generate energy to power homes, cars and businesses.

The study found that, nationwide, non-recycled plastics could provide enough energy to power 5.2 million homes, or 6 million cars, annually. Columbia researchers also found that recovering energy from all of the nation’s municipal solid waste would provide enough energy to power 16 million homes each year.

During the interview, Wilkinson dispelled two key misperceptions about the nature of today’s waste-to-energy technologies. For instance, Wilkinson emphasized that recycling and waste-to-energy are complementary – not competitive – processes in that communities with energy recovery facilities tend to have higher recycling rates than those that do not. He also noted that emissions from energy recovery are significantly lower than from coal-fired facilities.

Wilkinson told viewers:

I think wherever you have development you’re going to have concerns expressed and some opposition. I think we should look for inspiration to some of the European cities that have been doing this for a little bit longer. I’d use Copenhagen and Vienna as examples. When you go to those cities you see that not only have they embraced the technology, but they put those facilities right in the heart of the city, so that they’re close to people. And the reason they do that is so that they can take full advantage of both the heat and the electrical power that’s generated. But more fundamentally, because they trust the technology. They know that it is safe, clean, and reliable.

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