Waste To Energy: How Energy is Produced From Waste and its Benefits

In a growing world, where the conventional forms of energy are fast moving towards extinction as well as are contributing generously to global concerns like the greenhouse effect and global warming, the need to innovate and employ alternate or unconventional energy sources has become crucial for the existence of a future.

Waste-to-Energy, also widely recognized by its acronym WtE is the generation of energy in the form of heat or electricity from waste. (The process is also called Energy from waste or EfW). Using developing technology, these various methods aim to compress and dispose of waste while attempting the generation of energy from them.

Each month millions of tons of waste are produced. Either they become a part of landfills or are exported to third world countries.  This causes a huge environmental impact in terms of wildlife, ecosystems and human health. Keeping this in mind, many new waste treatment plants have come up and have developed new ways to generate energy from landfill waste.

Energy from waste offers recovery of energy by conversion of non-recyclable materials through various processes, including thermal and non-thermal technologies. The energy that is produced in the form of electricity, heat or fuel using combustion, pyrolization, gasification or anaerobic digestion is clean and renewable energy, with reduced carbon emissions and minimal environmental impact than any other form of energy.

How to Produce Energy from Waste?

‘Incineration’ is the most common and popular method for waste to energy generation. Incineration is also a very highly debated technology, due to the concerns it raises regarding safety and environmental impact. In simple terms, it stands for a type of waste treatment process, where the organics from the waste collected are burnt at high temperatures.

Waste treatments that are conducted involving high temperatures are called Thermal Treatment. The heat generated from this thermal temperature is then used to create energy.

Several countries in the world, especially in Europe, are experimenting with Incineration as an alternate means of energy production; Sweden, Germany and Luxembourg, to name a few.

Thermal Technologies

Depolymerization uses thermal decomposition where in the presence of water, the organic compounds are heated at high temperatures. This process of thermal decomposition is called Hydrous Pyrolysis in scientific terms.

The process without the use of oxygen is called Pyrolysis. Derived from a Greek word, it is literally the synthesis of the terms, Fire and Separating. The process usually takes plastic and bio-mass as its primary ingredients. The rest works as a thermochemical decomposition. This is again conducted at high temperatures and involves parallel changes in chemical composition and physics.

Often said to be a replication or representation of the conditions under which fossil fuels were created, Depolymerization has its own sets of benefits and limitations.

Gasification is another developing process employed for waste to energy generation. Gasification converts carbonaceous substances into carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and some amount of hydrogen.

This process, like incineration employs high temperatures to obtain results; however, the major difference is that combustion does not occur over it.

Steam and/or oxygen is also used in this procedure, where usually fossil fuels or organic substances are used. The gas that is produced from the whole procedure is called Synthesis gas and is considered a good means of alternate energy. Syngas is thereafter used for heat and electricity production primarily, among other uses.

Pyrolysis is another waste to energy process, used majorly in industrial processes. Pyrolysis is just like Hydrous pyrolysis, without the use of oxygen. Pyrolysis employs agricultural waste or organic waste from industries.

Plasma arc gasification, as the name suggests, uses plasma technologies to obtain syngas or synthesis gas. A plasma torch is used to ionize the gas and thereafter, help in obtaining synthesis gas. The process generates electricity while compressing the waste.

Non-thermal Technologies

Fermentation is also being developed as a form of waste to energy management. The science of fermentation is known as zymology. It is a metabolic process that, in biochemistry, is narrowly defined as the extraction of energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. It produces chemical changes in organic substrates through the action of enzymes.

In microorganisms, fermentation is the primary means of producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the degradation of organic nutrients anaerobically. Humans have used fermentation to produce foodstuffs and beverages since the Neolithic age.

It is used for preservation in a process that produces lactic acid in sour foods as pickled cucumbers, kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt, as well as for producing alcoholic beverages such as wine and beer. Fermentation also occurs within the gastrointestinal tracts of all animals, including humans.

Anaerobic digestion is a slow process. Here microorganisms are used to destroy biodegradable content. No oxygen is present during this procedure. It is used both domestically and even on a commercial level to tap the release of energy during the process and use it.

Anaerobic technologies are seen as good agents to reduce the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and also as a worthy replacement of fossil fuels. The process works as a boon for developing countries for creating low energies for cooking and lighting in homes.

Both China and India have mastered the usage of this technology, employing it as a part of their respective development schemes and investing in it. Biogas is used to run a gas engine, and energy is created for small scale use.

The MBT technology stands for Mechanical Biological treatment or mechanical biological pre-treatment and relates to a group of solid waste treatment systems. The technology uses domestic waste as well as industrial and commercial waste to generate products. These systems enable the recovery of materials contained within the mixed waste and facilitate the stabilization of the biodegradable component of the material.

The sorting component of the plants typically resembles a facility for materials recovery. This component is either configured to recover the individual elements of the waste or produce a refuse-derived fuel that can be used for the generation of power. The components of the mixed waste stream that can be recovered include ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal, plastic, and glass.


Benefits of Waste to Energy (WTE)

Here are some of the benefits of the waste to energy process:

1. Reduction of Waste Going to Landfill Sites

The waste to energy reduces the expense of trash transportation and landfilling, while at the exact same time, it produces power that has monetary value. It reduces the amount of waste going to landfill sites as well as could conserve the considerable expense of transporting waste to landfills as a lot of significant landfills are fairly distant from the primary town hall.

2. Reduction of Greenhouse Gases

It has a variety of ecological advantages. It generates much less greenhouse gas like methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is mainly sent out from the decomposition of the waste stream in landfills. It is over 20 times even a lot more potent than carbon dioxide and is among one of the most noteworthy contributors to climate modification.

In the waste to energy facilities, the production of methane is avoided. Presently, these facilities in the US account for around 20% of renewable electricity generation.

3. Reduction in the Use of Fossil Fuels

The waste to energy process stays clear of the consumption of natural deposits like oil, gas, as well as coal, which are or else used to create energy. A solitary waste to energy center saves over 200,000 barrels of oil annually.

4. It is Environment-friendly

Electricity and heat can be generated from waste, which provides an alternative and more environment-friendly source of energy. Waste to energy is an emerging innovative set of technologies aimed at better sustenance of the environment, with minimum damage to the ecosystems.

With these technologies developing by day and their acceptance increasing amongst households and industrial set-ups worldwide, waste to energy is seen as a development tool for emerging countries.

5. The Creation of Jobs

The local community around these facilities benefits from jobs created. The Power Recuperation Council states that the WTE sector supports approximately 14,000 jobs and $890 million in wages, salaries, and benefits. WTE facilities support local economies, buying goods and services from local vendors.

6. Better Recovery of Products

US WTE facilities recover more than 730,000 tons of ferrous metals for recycling. Communities that rely on WTE recycle at a greater rate than the national average.WTE facilities recover metal for recycling that would have been buried forever if sent to a landfill.

7. Save Ecological Cycles

Waste to energy or energy from waste is a conscious attempt to equalize the patterns of our planet and save our ecological cycles. The energy generations from these technologies are small scale right now, and their employment for domestic and industrial use is sparse. However, they are seen as the emerging solutions for tomorrow, that are set to affect the world immensely.

Waste Energy Companies in USA


Covanta Energy (pronounced coh-van-tuh) is one of the world’s largest owners and operators of infrastructure for the conversion of waste-to-energy (known as “energy-from- waste” or “EfW”), as well as other waste disposal and renewable energy production businesses.


Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. is a world leader in the safe and environmentally sound conversion of municipal solid waste – and other renewable waste fuels – into clean energy.


Sierra Energy is a waste gasification and renewable energy company founded in Davis, California, in 2004. Sierra Energy commercializes in revolutionary FastOx waste gasification technology, a simple derivative of the centuries-old blast furnace technology.


EnerTech Environmental, Inc. is a renewable energy company dedicated to protecting public health and the environment through the development and commercialization of clean energy technologies for biosolids (sewage sludge) and other organic wastes.


Zero Waste Energy is a development company that designs, builds, and operates integrated solid waste facilities throughout North America.


Tetronics International is a global leader in the supply of Direct Current (DC) Plasma Arc systems for a wide range of applications, including Waste Recovery, Hazardous Waste Treatment, Industrial Waste Treatment, Metal Recovery, Production Processes and Nano Materials.


Advanced Plasma Power Limited (APP) is the world leader in waste to energy and advanced fuel technology.  APP is revolutionizing how we treat waste sustainably by maximizing the value of it as a source of materials and energy while also minimizing the impact of waste on the environment.


Whatever you intend to recycle or turn into an alternative fuel eFACTOR3 can provide a custom solution to meet your needs. This includes post-industrial waste, C&D waste, MSW (Municipal Solid Waste), post-consumer waste, paper and cardboard, Paper Sludge, wood, carpet, packaging film, agriculture film, plastic or Biomass.



Share on:

About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.