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How Our Waste is Converted to Energy

How Our Waste is Converted to Energy

The Basics on Converting Waste to Energy

Our bio-waste is surprisingly rich in energy and bioenergy now contributes 1 percent of Australia's electricity. While it's a fledgling industry, waste-to-energy systems are revolutionizing the way homes and businesses are powered Australia by actually converting this waste into some other form of power, such as electricity, heat, or a combustible gas like methane. 

The most common type of process for converting waste into energy is also the oldest; it involves incinerating the organic material so that the heat can power a steam generator that can be used to generate electrical currents that power homes and businesses. This form of energy generation however has had its day as burning waste releases harmful gases into the atmosphere so many waste-to-energy plants are being built with pollution controls to mitigate this. 

More recently, other processes have emerged that circumvent the need to burn waste, such as gasification (breaking down matter into gas form with heat in the absence of oxygen), anaerobic digestion (using bacteria to digest waste into methane), landfill gas recovery (capturing naturally occurring gases that become trapped in landfills).  

The benefits of converting waste into energy are multifold – for starters, the obvious plus is that using waste means Australians can reduce the size of their landfills. Second, waste is a sustainable resource since millions of people throughout the country produce waste every day. Third, using waste can be a huge benefit to local economies by creating jobs and keeping energy production domestic and because waste from energy isn’t subject to price fluctuations in the same way other forms of energy are. Finally, using waste for energy, particularly from the more advanced technologies, cuts carbon emissions by offsetting  the need to burn fossil fuels. See: What is Biogas?


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