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Thermal waste processing worth £5.6bn annually

An estimated €5.6 billion is invested annually in building, expanding, modernising and maintaining waste-incineration plant and power stations which use refuse-derivative fuel (RDF), according to IFAT ENTSORGA, the trade fair for water, sewage, waste and raw materials management.

By Kari Williamson

By 2015 this figure is expected to rise to €7.8bn and annual capacity is expected to rise from the current 210 million tonnes to 270m tonnes, according to a report from ecoprog and the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology.

The analysts identified China as the world´s fastest growing market. Around half of all the new capacity installed last year was built in China.

The report cites a further 61 waste-incineration plants currently under construction in the country which together will be able to incinerate 18.6 million tonnes of municipal waste per year.

The European market too has in recent times seen a revival of activity, according to the ecoprog report. The authors see the impetus for this development mainly in those countries which are now seriously tackling the implementation of EU regulations.

These include the Scandinavian countries and a few Eastern European countries, but also the UK.

According to the British firm Tolvik Consulting, the UK currently has waste-to-energy and RDF plant in the pipeline that will be able to cope with a 19.4m tonnes per year.

At the end of August Air Products announced that it will build a waste-to-energy plant with a capacity of around 300,000 tonnes of private and commercial waste for a waste disposal company in the north of England. Using plasma technology, the waste will be subjected to extremely high temperatures and turned into an energy-rich gas which a turbine will transform into electricity for up to 50,000 households.

Through microbial and chemical decomposition processes, landfill waste with an organic component can also be used to produce a combustible gas mix of methane and carbon dioxide.

Of the 513 kg of municipal waste generated by every single EU citizen in 2009, 38% ended up in landfill.

Germany's position threatened

According to Germany´s engineering federation, the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau (VDMA), German suppliers are currently leading the way in this technology worldwide. VDMA sees this position threatened, however, by the inadequate feed-in tariffs for electricity generated from waste provided for in Germany´s Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG – Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz).

IFAT ENTSORGA 2012 takes place on 7-11 May 2012 at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre, Germany.

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