Energy Efficiency

What is Waste to Energy?

Humans create a lot of garbage. Garbage fills up a lot of landfills. And those landfills can create a lot of environmental issues. What can be done?

In America, it might seem like a major problem. Especially since landfills include a number of materials that are not biodegradable. But there is a solution that can reduce waste and even help to create energy.

How Does Waste to Energy Work?

Municipal solid waste is the official name of garbage. And it can be incredibly useful when it goes to a waste to energy plant. Instead of going to a landfill to do potential harm to the environment, it is used to produce energy.

It works like this: the trash gets dumped into a large pit. A huge claw scoops up the trash and it gets incinerated. The heat from the incineration is combined with water to create steam. That steam is used to make turbines spin and the turbines create electricity.

Sweden: Gold Standard for Waste to Energy Use

While waste to energy plants have a lot of potential, they need to be widely used to be the most effective. A perfect example of this can be seen in Sweden where waste to energy plants are commonplace.

Less than 1% of household waste in Sweden ends up in landfills. In contrast, more than half of waste in the United States went into landfills in 2015.

Sweden makes it a priority to convert as much trash as possible into energy. And that garbage can make a significant difference.

How much energy can four tons of garbage produce? The equivalent of a ton of oil or 1.6 tons of coal, according to a Swedish power plant run by a municipal government company called Tekniska Verken.

In Sweden, they recycle about 49% of their trash and about 50% goes to the waste to energy plants. While it isn’t the main source of the country’s energy, it does help to provide warmth in the winter.

America is Also Working to Reduce Waste

While America may not have the same waste reduction rates as Sweden just yet, there are still many ways that the U.S. is working to reduce waste. Aside from their own waste to energy plants, the U.S. also offers a number of waste reduction opportunities.

Recycling converts the trash into new materials. Composting turns waste from organic materials into usable fertilizer that helps plants grow. These are just some of the ways that Americans can make the most of their waste.

There are even ways to make cash with trash. Recycling programs can help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and can even pay in some places, depending on local laws.

Anything that helps to reduce waste is a worthy cause. And if it can also help bring in a few extra dollars, that’s even better!

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