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Frequently Asked Questions

This is a list of frequently asked questions and answers from WtERT. If your question is not answered on this page, send us an email to postmaster@wtert.eu and we will reply you.


About WtERT

  1. What is WtERT?
  2. Where is WtERT located?

About Waste Management

  1. What is the "Hierarchy of Waste Management"?
  2. What is the generation and disposition of solid wastes across Europe?

About Waste-to-Energy (WtE)

  1. What is the cost to a community to develop and build a WtE facility?
  2. What is the expected generation of electrical energy?
  3. What are the costs to operate the facility after it is complete?
  4. What are the economic benefits?
  5. What is the amount of ash generated?
  6. What are the environmental benefits of using WtE instead of landfilling?
  7. What is the amount of MSW generated by the average European citizen and how much of it is suitable for combustion?
  8. What is the minimum amount of solid waste that is needed for an WtE plant (incineration)?
  9. What are the preliminary requirements and steps that must be taken, negotiations to be completed, contracts to be signed before a facility can be built?
  10. Where are the WtE facilities located in Europe?
  11. How do WtE emissions compare with those from other types of plants that generate energy? What types and quantities of emissions do WtE facilities discharge into the air, water or land? How do typical WtE emissions compare with typical landfill emissions per ton of MSW?
  12. What are the constituents of ash?
  13. Can WtE ash be used for anything useful?
  14. What environmental laws and regulation must be followed by WtE plants in Europe?
  15. Is recycling compatible with WtE?
  16. Isn't it true that dioxins are a toxic substance and therefore any amount emitted, no matter how small, is bad?
  17. Isn't WtE a more expensive method of disposal than landfilling? Why spend this money?

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About WtERT

What is WtERT?

WtERT stands for "Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council". It is a top-tier-technical group that brings together engineers, scientists, and managers from industry, universities, and government with the objective of advancing the goals of sustainable waste management in Europe.

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Where is WtERT located?

WtERT Germany is located in Munich, Germany. It's part of the WtERT International network with representatives in USA, Canada, China and Greece.

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About Waste Management

What is the "Hierarchy of Waste Management"?

The waste hierarchy generally lays down a priority order of what constitutes the best overall environmental option in waste legislation and policy, while departing from such hierarchy may be necessary for specific waste streams when justified for reasons of, inter alia, technical feasibility, economic viability and environmental protection. European Legislation lays down a five-step hierarchy of waste management options which must be applied by Member States: waste prevention, as the preferred option, is followed by reuse, recycling, recovery including energy recovery and safe disposal, as a last resort.

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What is the generation and disposition of solid wastes across Europe?

In the EU-27, 522 kg of municipal waste was generated per person in 2007. 42% of treated municipal waste was landfilled, 20% incinerated, 22% recycled and 17% composted (Source: Eurostat. News Release 31/2009 - 9 March 2009).

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About Waste-to-Energy (WtE)

What is the cost to a community to develop and build a WtE facility?

Depending on the location, size, and other factors, the capital costs range from 75.000 to 100.000 per daily ton of capacity. Therefore, a plant that processes 1.000 tons of Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW) per day may cost between 75 and 100 million.

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What is the expected generation of electrical energy?

WTE plant processing typical MSW will generate a net of 500-600 kWh per ton for use by the local utility. At the price of four cents per kWh, the revenues per ton of MSW would be 20-30.

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What are the costs to operate the facility after it is complete?

In addition to the capital charges, a 1000-ton per day plant would engage personnel of about 60. Other costs are services, materials and supplies and the cost of disposal of ash.

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What are the economic benefits?

  1. The value of the electrical energy generated.
  2. The “tipping” fees paid by the communities using the WtE facility.
  3. The value of the ferrous and non-ferrous scrap collected.

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What is the amount of ash generated?

It ranges from 15-25% by weight of the MSW processed and from 5-15% of the volume of the MSW processed.

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What are the environmental benefits of using WtE instead of landfilling?

  1. WTE plants conserve fossil fuels by generating electricity. One ton of MSW combusted reduces oil use by one barrell (i.e., 132,50 liters) or 0,25 tons of coal.
  2. It has been estimated that one ton of MSW combusted rather than landfilled reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 1.2 tons of carbon dioxide.
  3. WTE plants do not have the aqueous emissions that may be experienced in landfills, either now or in the distant future.
  4. WTE plants reduce the space required for landfilling by about 90%.

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What is the amount of MSW generated by the average European citizen and how much of it is suitable for combustion?

The average European citizen produces 522 kg of waste per year, ideally above 60% should be recyclable and the rest, approximate 40% or less, should be suitable for combustion.

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What is the minimum amount of solid waste that is needed for an WtE plant (incineration)?

There are economies of scale in any construction project, and building a WtE plant is no exception. Larger plants result in lower costs per ton of MSW processed. In the EU, most WtE facilities range from 500 to 1.000 tons per day.

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What are the preliminary requirements and steps that must be taken, negotiations to be completed, contracts to be signed before a facility can be built?

A WTE facility requires a site, first and foremost, that is properly zoned and near major roads, highways, a utility substation, and has water, sewage and an appropriate industrial infrastructure. Approximately 100.000 m2 is preferred, but some facilities are located on as little as 20.000 m2 acres if trucks can line up off site. Before construction can begin, a projects needs to secure the following:

  1. Waste characterization in terms of composition, heating content, moisture, etc.
  2. Site control through lease or ownership.
  3. Proper zoning and/or land use conformance.
  4. Environmental permits.
  5. Utility interconnections
  6. Power purchase agreement including off-take guarantees.
  7. Materials purchase agreements.
  8. Ash disposal (e.g. landfill or salt mine) capacity.
  9. Waste supply commitments.
  10. Acceptable credit worthiness of all project participants including the government, bank utility or other entity require to make financial guarantees.
  11. Guarantees including governmental entities at the federal, state, and local levels.
  12. Current cost of waste disposal.
  13. Availability and cost of disposal alternatives.

Once the site and all contracts are secured, the facility may be financed and construction can begin. The construction period lasts approximately 24-30 months.

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Where are the WtE facilities located in Europe?

The countries with the biggest number of facilities are: France with 130, Germany 67, Italy 51, Sweden 30, Denmark 29, UK 20, Belgium 16, Netherlands 11 and Spain 10.

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How do WtE emissions compare with those from other types of plants that generate energy? What types and quantities of emissions do WtE facilities discharge into the air, water or land? How do typical WtE emissions compare with typical landfill emissions per ton of MSW?

Modern waste incineration facilities with state-of-the-art flue gas cleaning technology emit less dioxins than traditional power stations.

In the EU-15, 84% of the total GHG emissions from the waste management sector are from landfills, while only 3% are originated from the waste incineration sector.

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What are the constituents of ash?

Generally, WtE residues can be differentiated into two fractions: The term fly ash refers to the fine particles that are removed from the flue gas. However, usually the fly ash includes also residues from other air pollution control devices, such as scrubbers. Fly ash typically amounts to 10-20% by weight of the total ash.

The rest of the WtE ash is called bottom ash (80-90% by weight). The main chemical components of ash are silica (sand, quartz), CaO, Fe2O3, and Al2O3 for a mass burn WTE plant. Usually the ash has a moisture content of 22-62% by dry weight. The chemical composition of the ash depends strongly on the original MSW feedstock and the combustion process.

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Can WtE ash be used for anything useful?

WTE ash has been reused in construction since the early 70’s. Common applications are sub-base material, structural fill, and aggregate in asphalt or concrete. However, in the past, contaminant concentrations of fly ash exceeded the allowable threshold values. Ash reuse is therefore restricted to proven processes. Approximately 85% of the WtE ash is beneficially used in Germany and around 90% in the Netherlands

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What environmental laws and regulation must be followed by WtE plants in Europe?

At European Union level, new incineration plants have to follow at least Directive 2000-76-EC on the incineration of waste. Countries like the Netherlands and Germany have stricter national laws that new WtE plants in those countries have also to follow.

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Is recycling compatible with WtE?

WtE and recycling are at different levels and are not competing with each other, at contrary, WtE complements recycling.

As a rule, the communities that invest in WtE plants also do as much as possible recycling before sending the non-recyclable waste to their WtE, examples of this are Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium.

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Isn't it true that dioxins are a toxic substance and therefore any amount emitted, no matter how small, is bad?

Some dioxins are toxic. However, dioxins exist in nature as a result of both human (biomass, coal and MSW combustion, metal production, etc.) and natural (forest fires, volcanoes) activities.

In German incineration plants a decrease to approximate one thousandth of dioxin emissions between 1990 and 2000 was achieved thanks to new emission limit legislation and technology. While incineration plants accounted for one third of all dioxin emissions in the country in 1990, that figure was less than 1 percent for the year 2000, today it is even lower. This was achieved although the number of waste incinerators and the volume of thermally treated waste increased from 48 to 61 and from 9,2 kt/a to 14 kt/a respectively in that time.

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Isn't WtE a more expensive method of disposal than landfilling? Why spend this money?

Landfilling is short-term cheaper except in cases where the MSW has to be transferred long distances. However, when the "external" environmental costs are factored in, WtE is less expensive in all cases. For one thing, the constantly increasing use of land for landfilling is not sustainable. For more Information see the following paper: "Total Costs of Owenership - a comparison of incineration and landfill"

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BEST PRACTICE

Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility

Renergia, a brand new Waste-to-Energy (WtE) facility opened in Canton Lucerne, shows that Waste-to-Energy can provide reliable heat for industries.

Category: Incineration / Waste-to-Energy plant
Executing firm: Renergia Zentralschweiz AG

MBT Ljubljana, Slovenia

In Slovenia arises one of the largest and most modern waste treatment plants in Europe.

Category: Recycling / MBT
Executing firm: STRABAG AG

Flue Gas Cleaning

The final unit of the incineration plant is one of the most important parts as it has the objective of cleaning the air pollutants produced.

Category: Incineration
Executing firm: ete.a - Ingenieurgesellschaft für Energie– und Umweltengineering & Beratung mbH

Batch Dry Fermentation

The biogas produced from the waste can be converted in a CHP to electrical and thermal energy or fed as processed bio-methane into the natural gas grid or used as fuel (CNG).

Category: Recycling / Fermentation
Executing firm: BEKON Energy Technologies Co. & KG

MBT Warsaw, Poland

The Bio-Dry™ system is a static, aerated and flexibly enclosed reactor for the biological drying of various solid waste matters containing some biodegradable contents.

Category: Recycling / MBT
Executing firm: Convaero GmbH

 
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