The scarcity of resources for energy such as oil, coal and gas are becoming more obvious. In parallel, the consumption habits of modern consumer lifestyles together with the industrial development are causing a huge worldwide waste problem. Environmental concern is increasing and as a result, the demand for sustainable and renewable energy resources as well as alternative technologies for waste handling is rapidly increasing.
The driving forces for waste incineration are partly energy recovery through electricity; heat or cooling and process steam production, and partly waste handling and decreasing landfills. In the past, effective handling of waste was the main purpose for incineration. However, the trend has gradually shifted towards energy recovery.
Continued population growth and increased consumption results in higher demand of power. However, many production facilities are reaching the end of their technical life and the need for new capacity is needed both to meet the increasing demand and to replace older facilities.
The transformation to renewable energy is already gaining momentum, and the fast growth of renewables in the last years has led to falling costs and greater capacity in the design, manufacture and installation of renewable energy technologies. In 2009, nearly one quarter of all global electric generating capacity was renewable. The perception of renewable energy is changing and it is now increasingly seen as an important part of the global energy sourcing.
Incineration, biological treatment and material recovery are the main alternatives for decrease of landfills. Main issues with landfills are related to water and soil contamination, methane emissions and decease and hygiene issues. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which is about 21 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. The environmental concern is increasing as is international directives and standards, such as the European Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC)and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These directives and standard are putting pressure on politicians and governments to prioritize the handling of waste and methane emissions in a more long-term sustainable way.
Financially, the demand for WTE technologies is driven by rising energy prices, fossil fuel taxes, subsidies (e.g. green tariffs) and landfill taxes. In order to stimulate the WTE industry, several countries have developed financially motivating systems including feed-in tariffs2, gate fees3, green electricity certificates and production subsidies. The solution for handling the growing problem with MSW and landfills has generally been to issue either a landfill ban or tax on waste, which is placed in landfills.