Energy recovery or waste-to-energy is an alternative to recycling. It reutilizes the entirely exploitable oil-derived energy contained in plastic waste. Plastic has a potentially greater heating value than coal, and even though it makes up only 7% of the weight of municipal waste, it produces 50% of all the energy generated during waste incineration. The recovery of this energy and its use for civil and industrial purposes can be done through:
- direct incineration of waste: Currently around 27 million tons of waste are burned in Europe each year, producing energy for heating and lighting. If all the waste from our continent was used to generate energy, it would cover almost 4% of Europe’s total domestic electricity needs.
- Packaging Derived Fuel (PDF): This is fuel produced from the packaging found in municipal solid waste. Some studies have shown that PDF could replace the equivalent of 14 million tons of industrial fuel a year in facilities that produce energy.