Municipal solid waste is the trash we generate everyday. It consists of variety of materials such as paper, plastic, cloths, food scrapes, metals, appliances, rubber, leather, wood, glass, packaging material, paints etc. Their composition varies but on an average organic material has the biggest share.
The most popular destination of the MSW is landfill sites around the world. The dumped sites release variety of harmful chemicals. These chemicals get mixed in the air and reach ground water and are a major cause of pollution.
MSW can be broadly be divided into-
- Organic Fraction in which paper, and food scraps are present predominantly. The conversion of organic fraction of MSW into compost is the most applied way to deal with it. The compost can be used as fertilizer. Another option is the anaerobic digestion of organic waste which leads to the generation of biogas
- Recyclable material such as glass, metals, paper and plastics. This part of MSW can be reused.
- Non-Recyclable Material such as plastic, textiles, wood, paper. Non-recyclable material can be used to generate heat, electricity or fuel. The researchers and industries across the world are making efforts towards utilizing the various components of MSW meaningfully.
To convert the non-recyclable material into fuel it can be combusted or converted to syngas. From syngas advanced biofuels can be derived. A lot many companies are working in this direction.
The information about the municipal solid waste to biofuel companies and the mega projects spread worldwide can be obtained below.
Waste to Biofuel Companies
Enerkem specializes in the thermochemical technology. The non-recyclable non compostable municipal solid waste is first converted into syngas. In the subsequent steps syngas can be converted into cellulosic ethanol.
This Montreal, Canada based company was founded in 2000. Its plant in Edmonton, Canada has recently been in the news for all the good reasons. For this ambitious project Enerkem has joined hands with Alberta Innovates and the waste manager companies of the city of Edmonton. The aim is to utilize 1,00,000 metric tons of waste and produce 10 million gallons (38 million litres) of fuel per year. This way Edmonton’s waste diversion rate will be increased upto 90% from its current rate of 50%.
The technology is thermochemical and the organic part of the municipal solid waste (MSW) is the feedstock for Fulcrum Bioenergy. The conversion gives the syngas which is diverted to get renewable fuels. Renewable fules are used directly and do not required modifications in the engine. Fulcrum plans to produce 30 million gallons renewable fuels per year from the garbage generated by more than one million people.
Similar to Fulcrum Bioenergy, Fiberight uses organic fraction of the municipal soild waste. But unlike the previous here the product is cellulosic ethanol and biogas. The organic fraction suitable for Fiberight is food waste, compostables, non-recyclable and papers etc. The process involves enzymatic digestion of the organic waste to get industrial sugars. Sugars are further fermented to get cellulosic ethanol ‘Trashanol™’ and biogas.
Solena Fuels utilizes low carbon bearing urban organic waste such as garbage, wood waste and agricultural waste. Its patented technology is called ‘high Temperature Gasification Island (SPGR)’. The feedstock is converted into synthesis gas. The syngas is subsequently converted into drop-in fuels. Drop-in fuels are chemically similar to the fossil fuels and therefore their inclusion in the motor and storage paraphernalia do not require modifications in the existing machinery and system. Solena’s headquarter is in Washington, USA.
Abengoa This Spanish company has expertise in converting lignocellulusic waste into cellulosic ethanol. The feedstock is wheat straw, corn, grass and wood waste and the technological route is via biochemical conversion. The company has also developed technology to convert MSW to biofuel. Its MSW to biofuel demonstration plant of annual capacity 1.5 million litres at Salamanca, Spain.
In May, 2015 Abengoa also entered into a 200 million dollar agreement with Fulcrum bioenergy to build MSW to biofuel refinery in Navada, USA. Abengoa will take care of the execution of the plant including engineering, design and construction. The biorefinary will use Fulcrum’s gasification technology. MSW will first be converted into Syncrude which ultimately will be upgraded into jet fuel.
The utilization of MSW for energy is being sought everywhere. Recently (December 2015) Scania and Malaysia Innovation Agency decided to join hands. The aim is to develop opportunities to produce biofuels from MSW. The collaboration will start with a scoping study to identify suitable locations and explore feasibilities. The focus will remain on the technology selection. Scania has engines that can run on ethanol, biodiesel and biogas.
Similarly, administration of one of the provinces (Phuket) of Thailand is planning to build waste-to-biofuel facility where the MSW generated in the entire Island can be turned into biofuel. The administration is trying to secure funding for this ambitious plan.