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Definition & Goals  

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U.S. has 87 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants that process 28 million tons of municipal solid wastes (MSW) and generate about 15 TWh of electricity annually. During the nineties, all of these plants implemented the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) regulations of EPA at an estimated cost of one billion dollars. As a result of this retrofit, the U.S. WTE emissions of dioxins were reduced by one thousand times and of mercury by one hundred. Another fifty smaller plants that existed in the U.S. in the eighties did not, or could not, implement MACT and were shut down.

Despite the fact that the existing U.S. WTE plants have been recognized by EPA as one of the cleanest high temperature sources, cleaner than coal-fired power plants, metal smelters and cement plants, there has been some continuing opposition to new WTE plants in the U.S. In the period 1995-2002, the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) of Columbia University studied all waste management technologies and concluded that WTE was preferable to the only other means for disposing post-recycling wastes: landfilling. In the same year, the academia-industry consortium known as the Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council (WTERT, www.wtert.org) was formed. Its objectives were :

  • to advance technologies for recovering energy and materials from post-recycling residues

  • to inform the U.S. public and policymakers as to the advantages of waste-to-energy and all other means for the sustainable management of wastes.

By now WTERT-U.S. is recognized as the premier source of information for WTE research and development in the U.S. WTERT brings together academics, industry and government concerned with reducing the environmental impacts and climate effects of managing wastes, globally. WTERT already has sister organizations outside the U.S., such as in China (www.wtert.cn), Germany (www.wtert.eu), Greece (www.wtert.gr), and Canada (www.wtert.ca). Also, sister organizations of the SUR Council are under development in France, the U.K., India, Mexico, and other countries.


Nearly the same part of the post-recycling MSW of France goes to landfills and waste-to-energy. The diagram below shows that some nations have reduced landfilling by a combination of recycling, composting and combustion with energy recovery.



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