Exploring Waste-to-Energy as a Sustainable Option

Exploring Waste-to-Energy as a Sustainable Option

Research shows that two billion tonnes of municipal solid waste is produced every year globally.  Based on current levels, this amount is projected to rise by 70% by 2050.  Waste is not a minor problem that we can afford to ignore it. Waste has a tremendous impact on our natural world and 2020 has made it worse  as we now have to deal with even more health-related waste such as masks, gloves and other single-use, non-biodegradable materials that is generated by the culture that has unfortunately being enforced upon the people of using ‘disposable’ items.

Recycling is one solution, but it does not, and it cannot address the amount of waste that is generated on a daily basis all over the planet. There are just not enough recycling plants, and at times it is economically not feasible to recycle waste.

For years, countries have been shipping all their waste to countries in South Asia – some of this is recycled and some of it is illegally burned or dumped in the oceans. Because of the environmental impact this is having on the planet and the resultant health issues, governments across Asia have started refusing to take in the imported waste, causing a mounting problem of incredible amounts of waste that is not being recycled. The message to all countries is clear – “Deal With Your Own Waste”.

Dubai announced last month, the launch of a plant that would process 1.82 million tonnes of solid waste a year to generate 2% of the city’s annual electricity consumption requirement, enough to power 120,000 homes. Upon completion, it will be the world’s largest waste-to-energy plant operating at a single site. Switzerland’s Hitachi Zosen Enova and Belgian construction company Besix Group will build and operate the facility. The plant will be capturing gas from the Al Qusais landfill and treat it to produce electricity. This will eventually lead to the prevention of environmentally harmful gases generated in the landfill to escape into the atmosphere.

The definition of waste-to-energy is the process of generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste or the processing of waste into a fuel source. Today, there are a number of emerging technologies that are able to produce energy from waste without standard processes of direct combustion, which research has shown that it emits fine particulates and heavy metals.

Some also consider waste-to-energy plants as a more stable energy source when compared to wind and solar, which is dependent on weather conditions. The UAE, which ranks high in per capita waste generated, could benefit from this technology. The Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE) also launched last month a policy for Energy Production from Waste (EFW) in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Waste-to-Energy is a highly effective way of reducing greenhouse gases—particularly methane— from landfills. Scientists say that Methane is 84 times more potent as a climate-warming gas than CO₂ and landfills are known to be amongst the biggest emitters of methane. Waste-to-energy (W2E) plants are increasingly under focus across the Middle East and we hope they help the UAE and the region to divert all solid domestic waste from landfill sites.

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