Waste Transformation into Energy

Introduction

A rising need for energy caused by rapid depletion of oil reserves led to development of alternative sources of energy (Grover 46). Examples of alternative energy include wind power, nuclear energy, and waste energy. Technology used to generate waste energy resulted from widespread environmental pollution and inappropriate methods of waste disposal. These technologies have aided in reduction of waste generation. In addition, they have encouraged waste recycling. Factors that determine the rate of waste generation include economic development, climate, social development, and level of industrialization (Karagiannidis 38). Transformation of waste into energy has been lauded because it reduces pollution, controls waste generation, and provides alternative energy. Waste materials generate electricity that is used in factories, industries, and homesteads.

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History of waste energy

Transformation of waste into energy originated from the need to reduce waste generation and environmental pollution (Karagiannidis 341). Many countries have surpassed their capacities for waste disposal. Therefore, they transport waste materials to third world countries that have low rates of waste generation. Developed countries generate huge volumes of waste because of high rates of urbanization and economic growth (Grover 47). Unavailability of disposal sites prompts developed countries to develop ways of transforming waste into energy. In addition, the concept emanated from the need for a method to reuse and recycle waste. This need led to development of various methods of recycling and reusing waste by generating energy. These methods include thermochemical conversion, biochemical conversion, and physico- chemical conversion.

Sources of waste

Sources of waste materials for energy generation include agricultural residues, animal waste, sugar industry waste, forestry residues, industrial waste, municipal solid waste (MSW), sewage, and black liquor (Grover 51). Examples of agricultural waste used include rice husks, sugar cane remains, straw, and coconut shells. In many farms, these materials are usually used to increase levels of nutrients and minerals in the soil. Animal waste includes poultry manure and animal manure (Rogoff and Screve 71).

Bagasse is commonly used to produce biomass energy. Forestry residues are generated from activities like thinning, timber processing, natural attrition, and extraction of stem wood (Karagiannidis 47). Industrial waste used to generate energy mainly come from the food industry. Examples of waste materials from the food industry include fruit scarps and peelings, food residues, coffee grounds, pulp and fiber, and liquid wastes. Municipal solid waste contains waste materials from households. Finally, black liquor is generated from pulp and paper industries. Wastewater is a useful component of industrial waste used in energy generation.

Impacts

Transformation of waste into energy has economic, societal, and environmental impacts. The impacts are mainly positive. However, waste energy has not yet been fully embraced and exploited due to certain limitations.

Economic impacts

Economic benefits of waste energy include collection of waste disposal fees, sale of energy, and use of cheap and readily available raw materials (Porter 53). Waste energy provides a cheap alternative source of energy that utilizes economically viable generation methods. Many countries spend a lot of money on waste disposal and generation of energy. Prices of fossil fuels are major determinants of the economic stability of countries. High prices have negative impacts while low prices have positive impacts (Karagiannidis 63). However, the high rate of depletion of fossil fuel resources has led to high oil prices. High prices affect the price of other commodities such as food. Waste energy has contributed greatly in the reduction of dependence on fossil fuels for energy generation (Porter 54).

Environmental impacts

Transformation of energy into waste has positive environmental impacts. First, it reduces the rate of waste generation. Second, it reduces pollution of the environment by eliminating pollutants like methane (Energy Recovery Council par2). Third, it generates energy that conserves the environment through reduction of reliance on electricity production using fossil fuels. In addition, it reduces emissions from landfills that pollute the environment (Energy Recovery Council par3). Efforts to conserve and improve the environment have been strengthened by generation of energy from waste.

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Societal impacts

The lives of people have greatly improved because of a cleaner environment. The sustainability of society is more assured because of reduced environmental pollution and use of clean energy. Waste energy has improved the lives of many people by generating cheap electricity and creating employment.

Benefits of waste energy

Waste energy has several benefits. It reduces pollution because it eradicates landfills that are major sources of methane and other greenhouse gases. It is also cheaper than energy generated from fossil fuel plants (Rogoff and Screve 71). A thousand kilograms of waste materials produces more than 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity. A similar quantity of electricity from fossil fuel plants is produced from a 250 kilograms of coal. This implies that waste energy can reduce dependence on fossil fuel for electricity generation (Alternative Energy par4). Finally, waste energy is clean and renewable because its generation involves thermochemical, physiochemical, and biochemical techniques (Energy Recovery Council par3).

Limitations of energy from waste

Despite the aforementioned benefits, waste energy has limitations. Construction of energy generation facilities is very expensive (Porter 58). Therefore, few facilities have been constructed. Many countries rely on facilities that were constructed before the current financial recession. A report released by the Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council (WTERC) revealed that a waste energy plant that processes 1,000 tons of waste everyday costs approximately $140 million to construct (Rogoff and Screve 74). High costs of construction have discouraged embracement of waste energy. In the United Sates, few plants have been constructed in the last decade. Certain materials such as agricultural residues are usually ploughed back into the soil to provide nutrients and minerals necessary for crop growth (Alternative Energy par4).

Using agricultural waste materials to generate energy could affect crop production significantly. Conversion of energy into waste is a modern approach of energy generation. Therefore, insufficient research has been conducted regarding efficient methods of production. Finally, its sustainability is unpredictable because people are not yet convinced that waste energy is clean and safe (Porter 62). Failure to embrace waste energy might affect sustainability. More research needs to be conducted to reduce cost of production and determine whether it is sustainable and safe.

Conclusion

Transformation of waste into energy is one of the sources of alternative energy. It has been lauded because it reduces pollution, controls waste generation, and provides cheap energy that reduces reliance on fossil fuel. It encourages people to reuse and recycle waste materials. Technologies used to generate waste energy have aided in reducing the rate of waste generation. Factors that determine the rate of waste generation include economic development, climate, social development, and level of industrialization. Waste energy has benefits and limitations. It reduces pollution, provides cheap energy, and conserves the environment. However, construction of waste energy plants is expensive and people have not yet fully embraced waste energy. More research needs to be conducted to find ways of reducing cost of production.

Works Cited

Alternative Energy: Waste as a Renewable Energy Source. 2008. Web.

Energy Recovery Council: Waste-to-Energy Produces Clean, Renewable Energy. n.d. Web.

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Grover, Velma. Recovering Energy from Waste: Various Aspects. New York: Science Publishers, 2002. Print.

Karagiannidis, Avraam. Waste to Energy: Opportunities and Challenges for Developing and Transition Economies. New York: Springer, 2012. Print.

Porter, Richard. The Economics of Waste. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2002. Print.

Rogoff, March, and Screve Francis. Waste-to-Energy: Technologies and Project Implementation. New York: William Andrew, 2011. Print.

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