Waste-to-Energy is the use of modern combustion and biochemical technologies to recover energy, usually in the form of electricity and steam, from urban wastes. These new technologies can reduce the volume of the original waste by 90%, depending upon composition and use of outputs. The main categories of waste-to-energy technologies are physical technologies, which process waste to make it more useful as fuel; thermal technologies, which can yield heat, fuel oil, or syngas from both organic and inorganic wastes; and biological technologies, in which bacterial fermentation is used to digest organic wastes to yield fuel.
The global market for waste-to-energy technologies was valued at US$6.2bn in 2012 which is forecasted to increase to US$29.2bn by 2022. While the biological WTE segment is expected to grow more rapidly from US$1.4bn in 2008 to approximately US$2.5bn in 2014, the thermal WTE segment is estimated to constitute the vast bulk of the entire industry’s worth. This segment was valued at US$18.5bn in 2008 and is forecasted to expand to US$23.7bn in 2014.
The global market for waste to energy technologies has shown substantial growth over the last five years, increasing from $4.83 billion in 2006, to $7.08 billion in 2010 with continued market growth through the global economic downturn. Over the coming decade, growth trends are expected to continue, led by expansion in the US, European, Chinese, and Indian markets.
By 2021, based on continued growth in Asian markets combined with the maturation of European waste management regulations and European and US climate mitigation strategies, the annual global market for waste to energy technologies will exceed $27 billion, for all technologies combined.
Asia-Pacific’s waste-to-energy market will post substantial growth by 2015, as more countries view the technology as a sustainable alternative to landfills for disposing waste while generating clean energy. In its new report, Frost & Sullivan said the industry could grow at a compound annual rate of 6.7 percent for thermal waste-to-energy and 9.7 percent for biological waste-to-energy from 2008 to 2015.
The WTE market in Europe is forecasted to expand at an exponential rate and will continue to do so for at least the next 10 years. The continent’s WTE capacity is projected to increase by around 13 million tonnes, with almost 100 new WTE facilities to come online by 2012. In 2008, the WTE market in Europe consisted of approximately 250 players due in large to the use of bulky and expensive centralized WTE facilities, scattered throughout Western Europe.
Wide-spread environmental concerns about plastic waste are leading to increased demand for the plastic recycling (PR) market that has various uses for plastic waste. At the same time, and in line with this growing need, an increased number of industries that produce plastic products have committed to reducing their use of virgin plastic and ensuring that the plastic they do produce is recyclable, reusable, or compostable.
Growth of the Plastic Recycling Market
Valued at around $43.73 billion in 2018, research indicates that the plastic recycling market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% in revenue and 8.8% in volume by 2027. Findings are that rising environmental concerns will be the primary driving force along with the concerted global effort towards effective waste management and sustainability. Another is the growing awareness of the need for recycling plastic and the anticipated market growth of the PR market.
A new report released by Research and Markets in February 2020 gives a market snapshot in its executive summary and discusses the plastic recycling market by material type, source, application, and geography. Titled Global Plastic Recycling Market Size, Market Share, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Growth Trends, Key Players, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2019 to 2027, it explores the roles of the many global and regional participants in the PR market and analyses anticipated acquisitions, partnerships, and collaborations. These, the report states, are likely to be the major strategies market players will follow in an endeavor to expand their geographic presence and market share.
An older report published mid-2018 gave a slightly lower CAGR for the period 2018 to 2023 of 4.3%. This report, Global Plastic Waste Management Market 2018 by Manufacturers, Regions, Type and Application, Forecast to 2023 stated that it would grow from an estimated $27,1000 in 2017 to $34,900 in 2023.
When research for the new report was carried out during 2018, the Asia-Pacific region including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India, had the highest market share in plastic recycling. This was attributed to the fact that the region has the largest share in the generation of plastic waste and is also the biggest plastic waste importer.
However, Europe was pinpointed as a region poised to become the fastest-growing in the PR market due to increasing government initiatives and the improvement of recycling facilities in this part of the world.
While the report covers at least 16 companies involved in plastic recycling globally, the Hungarian MOL Group has been highlighted as a result of its acquisition of Aurora, a German recycled plastic compounder company. MOL is a well-established supplier of virgin polymers and was motivated by its Enter Tomorrow 2030 strategy that aims to move its business from a traditional fuel-based model to a higher value-added petrochemical product portfolio. More specifically, MOL intends to strengthen its position as a supplier in the sustainable plastic compounding segment of the automotive industry.
The older report focused on plastic waste management not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Use of Recycled Plastic
In terms of plastic materials, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) had the biggest market share in 2018. The reason given for this was a rapid surge in demand for PET and HDPE for the manufacturing of packaging. Hopefully, this won’t increase the production of PET and HDPE, but will rather help to get rid of waste.
As the CEO of Unilever, Alan Jope, said in a press statement late 2019: “Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment.” He was announcing Unilever’s commitment to halve its use of virgin plastic, reduce its use of plastic packaging, and dramatically step up its use of recycled plastic by 2025. They would also help to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells – which will amount to about 600,000 tonnes per year, he said.
Additionally, technological advances in the PR industry have led to other less expected uses including the manufacture of denim clothing.
Realizing the environmental impact production of denim clothing has, Levi Strauss & Co. has taken bold steps to reduce its use of water and chemicals in cotton and cotton-clothing production, and about a decade ago, the company launched its much more sustainable Water<Less range of jeans. In 2013, Levi’s used dumped plastic bottles and food trays to make 300,000 jeans and trucker jackets for its spring collection. Of course, not the entire product was made from plastic, but it was guaranteed that at least 20% came from recycled plastic content.
Many other items are also made from recycled plastic, some with more plastic content than others. They include bags, rugs and mats, blankets, bottles, planters, dog collars, shoes, decking, fencing, and outdoor furniture.
The Future of Plastic
While many people talk about plastic as a material that should be eradicated, it does have remarkable uses as Alan Jope implies. But there is a dire need to change our thinking. The irony is that when recycled plastic was invented it was used to try and solve environmental problems like reducing the hunting of elephants for ivory and to provide protective sheaths for electrical wiring.
There is undoubtedly too much virgin plastic being produced worldwide and during the process, there are too many other natural resources being depleted. Added to this, too many consumers have no knowledge or concern about the use and disposal of plastic products. They simply don’t care!
We, as a global nation, need to focus more on the reuse, recycling, and remanufacture of plastic, which is exactly what plastic recycling companies can do so successfully.
Ultimately, we need to eradicate plastic waste by making it useful, and there is no doubt that the mechanical engineering sector is well positioned to find solutions.
The increasing clamor for energy and satisfying it with a combination of conventional and renewable resources is a big challenge. Accompanying energy problems in almost all parts of the world, another problem that is assuming critical proportions is that of urban waste accumulation. The quantity of waste produced all over the world amounted to more than 12 billion tonnes in 2006, with estimates of up to 13 billion tonnes in 2011. The rapid increase in population coupled with changing lifestyle and consumption patterns is expected to result in an exponential increase in waste generation of up to 18 billion tonnes by year 2020. Ironically, most of the wastes are disposed of in open fields, along highways or burnt wantonly.
Size of the Industry
Around 130 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) are combusted annually in over 600 waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities globally that produce electricity and steam for district heating and recovered metals for recycling. The global market for biological and thermochemical waste-to-energy technologies is expected to grow to USD 29.2 billion by 2022. Incineration, with energy recovery, is the most common waste-to-energy method employed worldwide.
Since 1995, the global WTE industry increased by more than 16 million tonnes of MSW. Over the last five years, waste incineration in Europe has generated between an average of 4% to 8% of their countries’ electricity and between an average of 10% to 15% of the continent’s domestic heat.
Advanced thermal technologies, like gasification and pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion systems are beginning to make deep inroads in the waste-to-energy sector and are expected to increase their respective market shares on account of global interest in integrated waste management framework in urban areas. Scarcity of waste disposal sites coupled with growing waste volumes and solid waste management challenges are generating high degree of interest in energy-from-waste systems among policy-makers, urban planners, entrepreneurs, utility companies etc.
Currently, the European nations are recognized as global leaders of waste-to-energy movement. They are followed behind by the Asia Pacific region and North America respectively. In 2007 there are more than 600 WTE plants in 35 different countries, including large countries such as China and small ones such as Bermuda. Some of the newest plants are located in Asia. China is witnessing a surge in waste-to-energy installations and has plans to establish 125 new waste-to-energy plants during the twelfth five-year plan ending 2015.
Incineration is the most common waste-to-energy method used worldwide.
The United States processes 14 percent of its trash in WTE plants. Denmark, on the other hand, processes more than any other country – 54 percent of its waste materials. As at the end of 2008, Europe had more than 475 WTE plants across its regions – more than any other continent in the world – that processes an average of 59 million tonnes of waste per annum. In the same year, the European WTE industry as a whole had generated revenues of approximately US$4.5bn.
Legislative shifts by European governments have seen considerable progress made in the region’s WTE industry as well as in the implementation of advanced technology and innovative recycling solutions. The most important piece of WTE legislation pertaining to the region has been the European Union’s Landfill Directive, which was officially implemented in 2001 which has resulted in the planning and commissioning of an increasing number of WTE plants over the past five years.
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