Waste-to-Energy as a Green Solid Waste Management Option

Publish Date: 2009

The SWANA Applied Research Foundation’s (ARF) Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Group identified the issue of the perception and inclusion of WTE as a “green” solid waste management hierarchy as one of high importance to the group.

Using the word “green” as an adjective generally means that the product or service it describes benefits the environment by being sustainable and/or reducing negative environmental impacts.

The purpose of this report is to present scientific data that support the classification of WTE as a “green” option when compared to the option of disposing of non-recycled waste in landfills and relying on the combustion of fossil fuels instead of the non-recycled waste for electricity generation. This latter option is currently the de facto option of choice by most communities in the United States and Canada.

This report does not compare the environmental benefits of WTE to those associated with materials recycling or organic waste composting. Rather, it assumes that a community has already implemented aggressive materials recycling and composting programs and that these programs are designed to divert as much as 50 to 60 percent of the waste stream. The report attempts to quantify the environmental benefits associated with the processing of the nonrecycled waste through WTE plants for electricity generation rather than disposing of this nonrecycled waste in landfills.

Five organizations subscribed to the SWANA ARF’s WTE group in FY2009, each of which made a funding commitment to the conduct of collective applied research in the WTE area.1 A listing of the five WTE Group subscribers.

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