“Waste incineration is an ancient technology, the installations are badly polluting the environment and threatening public health” – opinions like these are still common among the general public in Germany, despite the fact that great technological advances have been made and that modern Waste-to-Energy plants now have minimal environmental impacts.
Incineration is the globally predominant process for thermal waste treatment considering plant number and treatment capacity. About 255 million tons of waste is processed annually in about 2200 facilities. In addition to this well established treatment method, waste pyrolysis and waste gasification offer other thermal treatment methods. These so called alternative thermal treatment processes have recurrently been presented by different operators since the 1970s, using more or less creative names.They are typically characterized by a comparably complex technology. According to the providers, the advantages of these processes compared to incineration lie within higher electrical efficiencies and/or higher value of conversion products, for example the production of glazed and therefore non-elutable slags or the production of liquid energy sources.
the protagonists of conventional waste disposal have faced off against their opponents who wanted to recycle materials exclusively. In the mean time, there are many reasons to abandon these contrary positions and think about synergies between the concepts of thermal and material recycling processes. The latest impulse for this is surely the most recent legal development in the European Union in accordance with national objectives of having a waste management system that is more directed at the protection of the climate and resources.