March 22, 2011 11:08 ET

Waste to Energy Technologies Could Generate 10% of the Global Electricity

ROCKVILLE, MD--(Marketwire - March 22, 2011) - has announced the addition of SBI's new report "Thermal and Digestion Waste-to-Energy Technologies Worldwide" to their collection of Energy market reports. For more information, visit

Each year the world generates more than 2.1 billion tons of waste, disposes of most of that waste it in landfills, and allows it to decay and release methane (a powerful greenhouse gas that drives climate change), carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, odors, groundwater quality pollutants, and a host of other air, water, and soil pollutants. Locked inside of the 2.1 billion tons of waste is approximately 24.5 quadrillion Btu of energy -- enough heat to generate about 10% of the electricity consumed annually around the globe. Meanwhile, in many developed nations, the availability of landfill capacity has been flat or steadily decreasing due to regulatory, siting, and environmental permitting constraints on new landfills and landfill expansions. As a result, new approaches to waste management are rapidly being written into public and institutional policies at local to national levels.

Landfilling, which is still employed at the overwhelming majority of global waste management facilities in developed nations, generally performs well in terms of throughput, public health, and safety. But many current and widespread waste management practices are mediocre or even poor performers in terms of energy efficiency and environmental performance. For instance, the conventional municipal solid waste chain is commonly characterized by moderate to long haul distances, which generate substantial greenhouse gas emissions, followed by long-term storage in a landfill, releasing methane and other pollutants. In developing nations, landfills can pose major public health concerns, and can in some cases represent a significant fire hazard due to spontaneous ignition. Many liquid waste streams, especially in the livestock and food production industries, are only minimally treated prior to discharge. Dairy wastes, for instance, can result in excessive nutrient loading of farm fields, while municipal wastewater, especially in developing nations, may contain high levels of biochemical oxygen demand, bacteria, and other harmful pollutants.

Waste to energy technologies -- incineration, gasification, plasma gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion -- provide a convenient solution to many of these waste management issues. For instance, installation of a waste to energy conversion facility near a large urban center can reduce the number of truck, train, or barge trips to landfills, reduce the volume of new material that is being stored in landfills, and reduce the proportion of organic matter that is stored in a landfill, which in turn reduces the production rates of landfill methane. Liquid waste to energy technologies can also reduce the concentration of water quality constituents in treated effluent, by substantially reducing bacterial loading, biochemical oxygen demand, and other constituents.

Bolstered by global concern and policy actions relating to climate change, waste to energy technologies also support low-carbon and in some cases carbon-neutral energy production. As a result, the global market for waste to energy technologies has evidenced substantial growth over the last five years, increasing from $4.83 billion in 2006, to 7.08 billion in 2010 with continued market growth through the global economic downturn. Over the coming decade, growth trends are expected to continue, led by expansion in the US, European, Chinese, and Indian markets. By 2021, based on continued growth in Asian markets combined with the maturation of European waste management regulations and European and US climate mitigation strategies, the annual global market for waste to energy technologies will exceed $27 billion, for all technologies combined.

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