The Role of Fuel and Energy Recovery from Non-recyclable Materials in Circular/low-carbon Economy Policies, with Dr. Thanos Bourtsalas

Friday, November 12, 2021 - 2:32pm
Event Type: 
Lunchtime Series Talk

Circular economy (CE) and low-carbon economy (LCE) are the policies adopted as a response to the unsustainable use of natural resources. It is argued that implementation of these concepts in tandem, through a systemic approach including design principles and process integration, would ensure resource efficiency and sustainability. However, the role of fuel or energy recovery from non-recyclable materials (waste to energy or WTE; materials which otherwise are landfilled) in CE and LCE policies is often questioned, mainly due to considerations on the environmental and economic impacts of the processes. This presentation is divided into two parts. The first part is associated with an evaluation of primary industrial data to compare the environmental and economic aspects of six advanced Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT; called ‘dirty’ Materials Recovery Facilities in the US) facilities in Europe, some of which included the use of non-recyclable materials in the energy/cement sectors. The second part relates to a technical and environmental assessment of using non-recyclable plastics and paper products as alternative fuel in cement production. From this analysis, it can be concluded that WTE can be the final disposal step for non-recyclable materials to produce a spectrum of marketable products and serve as a transition step to a more circular/sustainable development path, depending on where cities are at the start. WTE could stand as a strong link between CE and LCE policy agendas that present common objectives and areas of intervention. Future directions are highlighted