As we know, municipal solid waste is both a potentially valuable resource and a significant disposal problem. In the United States, more than 260 million tons (236 million tonnes) was produced in 2015, equivalent to 4.4 lbs (2kg) per person.
To address the issue, the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), has conducted an assessment of potential research and development (R&D) activities that could improve the economic viability of various municipal solid waste-to-energy (WtE) options.
The report identifies several R&D opportunities for cost-competitive WtE facilities:
- Applying gasification technologies to sorted MSW to produce a syngas intermediate;
- Lowering capital costs of next generation anaerobic digestion systems that make high-value products;
- Converting sorted-MSW to biocrude and derivative fuels;
- Enhancing techno-economic viability of processes for currently unrecycled plastics.
There is certainly much potential in the US for WtE projects, which are yet to gain much traction. AcuComm’s WasteView database which gives a more up-to-date perspective of the current waste environment, includes details of 231 projects in the US related to the disposal or utilisation of MSW, including 38 WtE facilities.