Municipal authorities in many countries incinerate and convert into energy a part of the solid waste that you throw from your house, or waste generated from industries.
But not all waste generated from domestic or industrial sources are turned into energy.
For two main reasons:
- Logistically, it is not easy to collect a whole lot of wastes – In order for waste to be converted into energy by municipalities or by industries, they expect a certain amount of scale as otherwise, economics do not work out. As a result, it is not economical for the government of the industries to go after some distributed agri waste in remote regions. In some cases, even where the waste is accessible, collecting the waste might not be easy enough, leading to process inefficiencies. An example of this is the thin plastic wraps and other small bits of waste strewn around. While in sum these could add up to a significant amount, their physical characteristics might not lend themselves to easy. Another type of waste that is difficult to collect is solid waste that has been mixed into sewage or has been exported to rivers and oceans.
- Wastes that do not have any organic portions cannot be converted to energy. Stated simply, a material needs to be have hydro carbons in it (carbon and hydrogen) for it to be burnt and converted to energy. Inorganic material (glass, metal, stones…) cannot be burnt and thus cannot contribute to energy generation. Some of these wastes are hence recycled, while the other inorganic wastes actually just remain in the landfill!
So, if you consider the typical stuff we throw out of our homes, you can see that paper, plastics, cloth, kitchen waste, garden waste all can be converted into energy (all these contain hydrocarbons). Whereas materials such as glass items, metal containers and any construction waste are usually recycled or reused in some form, or in some cases, just deposited in a landfill.