Conference highlights growing opportunities for recovering energy from waste, in U.S. and abroad

This week, representatives from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) joined businesses, policy makers and other interested groups at the 20th Annual North American Waste-to-Energy Conference (NAWTEC), a technical gathering focused on municipal waste-to-energy.

During the conference, ACC released the results of a new study showing that emerging technologies designed to convert waste into fuels or raw materials could offer communities environmental benefits and cost savings over landfill disposal (also see our press release). The study quantifies the energy and costs savings generated through current gasification and pyrolysis technologies.

Key conference presentations highlighted a 3,000 ton-per-day waste-to-energy facility in Palm Beach County, Florida; current developments in using gasification to address wastes; and the rapid growth of waste-to-energy across the globe.

The world’s 900 waste-to-energy facilities currently process 180 million tons of garbage annually, but that figure is expected to grow significantly as nations realize the value of converting waste into energy, feedstock materials and other resources, and more plants are constructed. Greg Wilkinson, a consultant to the plastics industry, presented many of the technical studies on energy recovery technologies commissioned by ACC’s Plastics Division.

Keynote speaker Michael Brennan, mayor of Portland, Maine, highlighted the urgency for comprehensive policies and greater public awareness of the potential benefits from recovering more energy from waste. “Waste, energy and how we manage these issues are critically important,” Brennan told participants.

Maine is a leading user of waste-to-energy technology in the United States. As explained by Mayor Brennan, “Out of 87 waste to energy facilities in the U.S., four are in Maine. We are doing a good job.” These four facilities process 840,000 tons of waste per year generating 500 MwH of electricity. Maine ranks second in the nation in converting its waste into energy (behind only Connecticut).

Another interesting fact noted repeatedly during the conference was that countries with the highest numbers of waste-to-energy plants also have the highest rates of recycling.

From traditional waste-to-energy facilities to a number of emerging technologies that convert waste into fuels and/or feedstocks, NAWTEC was a great opportunity to see firsthand how energy recovery is helping develop an energy future that’s strong, secure and sustainable.

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