A growing global population and rising living standards are producing ever greater quantities of municipal solid waste (MSW).
It is projected that globally by 2050, 3.40 billion tonnes of waste will be generated each year (The World Bank, 2018); a staggering 70 per cent increase from 2016 levels. Today, most of the world’s waste is landfilled (37 per cent), dumped (33 per cent), recycled or reused (19 per cent), or incinerated (11 per cent) (The World Bank, 2018).
Both landfilling and dumping are highly unsustainable solutions; they use large areas of land and result in the release of significant environmental pollutants, including the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) as the waste decomposes and often pose a health and safety hazard in developing countries (The World Bank, 2019). Landfill storages near cities are coming under increased capacity pressure, resulting in rising landfill charges by local governments.
This same growth in population and living standards is also driving ever-larger demand for energy, especially electricity.
A key solution to these challenges of MSW disposal, rising energy demand and methane emissions from MSW is Waste-to-Energy (WtE); the generation of energy – in the form of electricity and heat – from the processing of waste. The addition of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to WtE has the potential to make waste a zero or even negative emissions energy source, depending on the ratio between biogenic and non-biogenic waste fraction