Energy from Waste (EfW) P2

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The aim of this series is to provide a literature review on the current status of Energy from Waste (EfW). Due to the length it will be split into three parts. Part 1: Introduction to the topic, a brief history, classifications and policy influences. Part 2: Proven capability, scalability and efficiency. Part 3: Alternative technologies, barriers and gaps in current understanding. Part 2 below!


Proven Capability

Incineration with energy recovery is applied widely across the EU [1]. Currently 400 EfW plants are operating in the EU-15 [2], [3]. Fodor and Klemes [2] state that only 7-10% of waste is currently treated by incineration and over 40% still goes to landfill, Schror [4] however found that only 5% of waste is incinerated. The UK energy recovery with incineration accounted for 8% in 2006 suggesting Fodor and Klemes percentage to be more accurate for the UK. This 8% produced 0.8Mtoe (Million tonnes of Oil Equivalent) enough to power 250,000 UK households [5].

Municipal solid waste (MSW) makes up the majority of waste and around 20-25% (EU average) of this is incinerated, accounting for 200 million tonnes per year [3]. This varies for individual member states from 0-62% [3]. On average individual MSW incinerators have a capacity of 200,000 tonnes of waste per annum [3]. Around 22 million tonnes/year or 12% of the hazardous waste produced in the EU is also incinerated [3].

Yassin et al [6] noted that the amount of energy generated from incineration in Europe in 2000 was equivalent to the electricity demand of Switzerland (49.6 TWh). Taking the number of currently operating EU EfW plants (400)[2], [3] and multiplying by the average waste capacity (200,000 tonnes/year)[3] it can be inferred that the capacity of EfW plants in the EU is around 80 million tonnes of waste per year. For every 1 tonne of waste incinerated 500KWh of energy is produced [7]. This would mean a total EU energy production of 40 TWh from EfW installations. This is a very rough estimate based on the available literature but shows significantly less then Yassin et al’s estimate.


Grosso et al [8] recognised the efficiency of energy recovery as a particular challenge in terms of MSW incineration. The efficiency depends on the composition of waste [9] and waste is highly heterogeneous [10]. Waste can consist of organic substances, minerals, metals and water [3], and typically has a calorific value between 7-15GJ/t [3]. Wastes can vary in terms of their total organic carbon and metals along with dissolved solids, flow rate and oxygen demand [2].

Pires et al [9] recommended some key changes to increase efficiency including using models and tools to rationalise use of certain technologies and strategies, his study covered the EU and needs updating to consider the new member states. The Waste Framework Directive acts as a driver to improve efficiency, since only highly efficient EfW installations will classify for the recovery status leaving lowest efficiency installations in the disposal category along with land filling [1]. In addition higher efficiency is more cost effective. Efficient EfW plants can use their own generated electricity within the process thereby reducing operational costs [10].


One example of a large scale EfW plant is Veolia’s Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Sheffield, this processes 250,000 tonnes of waste a year and provides district heating to over 140 buildings [11]. Waste fired power plants (WFPP) also tend to be large scale, Amsterdam is a key player in this area [12].

Mullis [13] identified small community scale EfW allowing off grid power generation with minimal environmental impacts. Although in these cases pyrolysis and gasification were prominent [13]. Adu-Gyamfi et al [5] describes community level EfW schemes in eco-cities such as Dongtan in China. Another example of small scale EfW is a Sheffield based car servicing company, Kingholme Services Ltd. They use small 8-30KW waste oil burners to heat 1200 square foot workshops [14]. Normally the waste oil would be costly and messy to dispose of [24].

Pavlas [12] highlighted the fact that the trend towards large scale electricity production plants may not be the most efficient utilisation of waste, and that increasing net efficiency of incinerators processing 100kt/year above 20% becomes problematic. Schror [4] suggested that increasing the number of smaller scale community EfW facilities could help overcome the challenges faced by larger installations.

There is large potential for increased use of EfW [5], [10]. Approximately 3 billion tonnes of MSW is generated annually in Europe [15]. Despite increasing recycling rates 43% of the UKs waste was land filled in 2010/2011 [15]. The EU treated 2391 million tonnes of waste in 2008, of which only 82 million tonnes were incinerated with energy recovery [4]. There is an increasing amount of waste that needs processing and with decreasing incentives to landfill it cannot all be solved by recycling alone [15].

The Waste Energy Strategy for England estimates EfW to be using 25% of MSW by 2020, it currently makes use of only 9% [5], [16]. EfW is expected to become an established conversion technology for MSW [17], it has the potential to supply 50% of the UK renewable energy targets by 2020 [5], generating around 2.1 Mtoe of energy. These estimates depend largely on the continuing availability of feedstock [5]. The supply of waste is currently greater than demand, but rapid expansion of the industry may alter this.

9. References 

[1]      M. Grosso, A. Motta, and L. Rigamonti, “Efficiency of energy recovery from waste incineration, in the light of the new Waste Framework Directive.,” Waste Manag., vol. 30, no. 7, pp. 1238–43, Jul. 2010.

[2]      Z. Fodor and J. J. Klemeš, “Waste as alternative fuel – Minimising emissions and effluents by advanced design,” Process Saf. Environ. Prot., vol. 90, no. 3, pp. 263–284, May 2012.

[3]      European IPPC Bureau, “Reference document on the Best Available Techniques for Waste Incineration,” Integr. Pollut. Prev. Control, no. August, 2006.

[4]      H. Schror, “Generation and treatment of waste in Europe 2008 Steady reduction in waste going to landfills,” Environ. Energy. eurostat Stat. Focus, 2011.

[5]      K. . Adu-Gyamfi, R. Villa, and F. Coulon, “Renewable Energy , Landfill Gas and EfW : Now , Next and Future,” Polution Sollutions, pp. 28–31, 2010.

[6]      L. Yassin, P. Lettieri, S. Simons, and A. Germana, “Energy recovery from thermal processing of waste: a review.,” ICE, vol. 158, no. ES2, pp. 97–103, 2005.

[7]      a Porteous, “Why energy from waste incineration is an essential component of environmentally responsible waste management.,” Waste Manag., vol. 25, no. 4, pp. 451–9, Jan. 2005.

[8]      M. Grosso and L. Rigamonti, Experimental Assessment of the N20 Emissions from waste incineration: Role of Nox Control Technology. Lisbon: World Congress. Turning Waste into ideas, 2009, pp. 978–989.

[9]      A. Pires, G. Martinho, and N. . Chang, “Solid waste management in European countries: A review of sustems analysis techniques.,” J. Environ. Manage., vol. 94, no. 4, pp. 1033–1050, 2011.

[10]    P. Stehlík, “Up-to-date technologies in waste to energy field,” Rev. Chem. Eng., vol. 28, no. 4–6, pp. 223–242, Jan. 2012.

[11]    Veolia Environmental Services, “2012 Annual Review (Veolia),” p. Accessed 18.11.2013, 2012.

[12]    M. Pavlas, M. Touš, P. Klimek, and L. Bébar, “Waste incineration with production of clean and reliable energy,” Clean Technol. Environ. Policy, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 595–605, Feb. 2011.

[13]    E. Mullis, M. Kay, A. Morral, and G. Drew, “Micro and Community scale domestic waste and wastewater treatment technologies,” Environ. Knowl. Transf. Netw. Publ., 2009.

[14]    Manager Kingholme Services Ltd, “In conversation with.” Sheffield.

[15]    H. K. Jeswani, R. W. Smith, and A. Azapagic, “Energy from waste: carbon footprint of incineration and landfill biogas in the UK,” Int. J. Life Cycle Assess., vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 218–229, May 2012.

[16]    T. Jamasb, R. Nepal, and H. Kiamil, “Waste to energy in the UK: policy and institutional issues,” ICE, vol. 163, no. 2, pp. 89–86, 2010.

[17]    DEFRA, “Waste Stratergy for England 2007,” London UK, 2007.




See EfW P1:


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