Waste To Energy Technologies to Watch in 2020

Updated On
waste to energy

We may collect a share of sales from items linked to on this page. Learn more.

The worldwide waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies market is expected to grow by 6.54% by 2025. WTE can be described as a process of using organic waste material into heat or electricity, which is used to power vehicles while saving the environment at the same time. 

The primary reason that WTE technology is so popular is the fact that it converts solid waste substances – including paper and plastic – into energy, cost-effectively and sustainably. 

Improper waste removal negatively impacts the environment and has made it difficult for nations to meet the goals and objectives for sustainable urban living. Not only this, but high waste production also increases our dependence on non-fossil fuel energy sources is another leading factor responsible for the emergence of the WTE market. 

If you are an environmental enthusiast, here are the top 10 waste-to-energy technology trends that you should watch. 


Top 10 Waste-To-Energy Technology Trends 2020

Dominance Of Thermal-Based WTE

Mass burn combustion facilities have existed for decades and their demand is still high. Thermal WTE technologies dominate the market and expected to maintain position moving forward. In 2013, thermal-based waste-to-energy technologies accounted for 88.2% of total market revenue. The primary reason is the massive amount of waste generated each month.

Development in gasification and incineration technologies has made it possible to operate large-scale thermal combustion facilities while minimizing polluting emissions. The straightforward process makes the technology highly appropriate for producing energy. With over 100 facilities in the US and many more in Asia and Europe, thermal-based combustion is the top choice for companies. For example, the University of New Hemisphere recently launched the EcoLine waste-to-energy facility.


Threats From Renewable Energy Sources 

Well established renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro form a barrier to the development of WTE plants. Furthermore, the cost of setting up thermal waste-to-energy facilities is much higher. As such, it discourages new participants.

The primary thermal technologies are direct combustion, pyrolysis, plasma arc gasification, and conventional gasification. The cost varies for each facility based on the differences in the technology and the requirement of a unique design, features, equipment, and site space. Apart from this, other factors influence the cost of construction. 


High Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) 

All kinds of environmental pollution caused by the growing population and commercial activities in urban areas contribute to high municipal solid waste (MSW) driving the waste-to-energy market.

According to international environmental experts, thermal-based conversion of waste to energy will lead the growing economies, especially in Asia Pacific region were ecological protection concerns are more serious.

Factors such as heightened economic development, construction, and industrialization also support the production of municipal solid waste and influence the demand for thermal-based waste-to-energy technologies.  


Emergence Of Biological Technologies

Biological technologies convert waste to energy in more Eco-friendly way compared to thermal based ones. The market segment for biological techniques is growing at an estimated compound annual growth rate of 9.7% in the last six years.

Considering this background, biological technologies are more appreciated by environmental experts, and the segment is likely to penetrate the market. 


Asia-Pacific To Rule The Market

The amount of solid waste generation globally will increase to ten billion metric tons within the next ten years. Out of this, almost 25% of waste is estimated to be produced by the Asia-Pacific region only.

As mentioned earlier, the primary cause of high waste material production is high consumption by households, rising urban population, and industrialization activities making Asia-Pacific dominate the market.  


Advancements In Globalization 

Environmental pollution keeps growing at an unprecedented rate in both developing and developed countries.

Globalization and foreign direct investment have spurred the growth of transnational economic activities, including travel and tourism – two sectors that generate tonnes of waste. To make these industries sustainable, there’s need to leverage advanced waste to energy technologies.

Some of the leading names in the global waste-to-energy market include C&E Environmental Protection Holding Ltd., Foster Wheeler A.G., Suez Environment S.A., Babock & Wilcox Co., and Veolia Environment. All have improvised their operational processes with the help of technologies. Such innovative technologies enables them to reduce installation costs and achieve operational efficiency.


Upcoming Utility-Scale Plants 

Most of the utility-scale plants are based in the US, China, Europe, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and India. In 2013, Europe accounted for a total of 47.6% of the total market revenue and labelled as the most prominent regional market.

Other than high industrial waste, a driving factor was the EU Waste Legislation. The characteristics on which local markets are identified is the adoption of waste-to-energy technology by countries such as the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany. 


Hydrothermal Carbonization Waste-To-Energy Technology

Geothermal conversion of liquid waste is relatively a slow process, but upcoming waste-to-energy technologies. Emerging technology is Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC) specially designed for transformation of wet biomass feedstock through heat. Acid at high pressure is used as a catalyst to speed up the process and stimulate the generation of hydro-char. 

The significant benefit is its low processing time while the conditions and circumstances in which this process is executed are similar to older ones. The properties of hydro-char are identical to that of fossil fuels, and this technology produces the same amount of energy. The best thing about this waste-to-energy conversion technology is that it is not dependent on any kind of energy input. 


Emergence Of Dendro Liquid Energy (DLE) 

Experts consider Dendro Liquid Energy (DLE) four times more efficient in generating electricity than anaerobic digestion (AD). 

It’s an innovation in the global waste-to-energy technologies market because it produces zero waste. Additionally, zero-emission discharge makes the plant facilities contaminated and unfit for operations. With the adoption of this zero-waste technology innovation in Germany, market participants expect better opportunities in the future. 


Incineration as a waste-to-energy technology

Incineration is the oldest and well-known technique for treating and processing municipal solid waste. However, this waste-to-energy technology is not without limitations. It’s biggest drawback is the high cost of operation and maintenance, making it unfit for waste-to-energy conversion activities. There were 700 incinerators in 1930 in the US. 

But the number decreased to only 265 by 1996 due to the technical problems caused by air emissions. Furthermore, the emissions pose a threat to human health. Continuous exposure can cause severe respiratory problems and lung diseases. 

Ignorance and high-cost perception by the public inhibits the grow of this technology in the waste-to-energy market.

However, with the advancement of technologies, plant owners can adopt standard operating procedures for washing the flue gas stream. It is considered a significant improvement in environmental sustainability. 


Growing Environmental Issues

Waste incinerator technological interference disrupts the waste management and the entire waste stream. Instead of preventing waste generation, these systems continuously produce waste and inhibit waste prevention practices. The pollutants if trapped in the system, need particular landfills for proper disposal. 

If the machine handler attempts to recover the energy, heat exchanges would be required which operates at even higher temperatures and stimulate greater dioxin production. This intervention is against all the five waste management principles (e.g. reuse, recycle, reduce, waste minimization, and landfill). Environmental experts consider it a costly mechanism that creates fewer jobs compared to conventional recycling-based businesses. 


Negative Impact On Human Health 

While there are several advantages that humans can achieve from waste-to-energy, drawbacks abound. First, the incineration systems release several kinds of pollutants damaging to both humans and marine life. 

While new waste incineration systems are extremely expensive, they cannot control the emission of toxic metals and acidic gases completely. 

The most harmful Persistent Organic Pollutant (POPs) is dioxin which can cause malignant growth, neurological syndromes, reproductive issues, lung diseases, and thyroid damage. 

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), incinerators are the most significant source of dioxin. The toxins can affect different people in different ways:

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), incinerators are the most significant source of dioxin. The toxins can affect different people in different ways:

  1. By consuming the food or beverages from the street stalls that have been contaminated by the air pollutants.
  2. People who work in the plant or live are more vulnerable to inhale the air polluted by the waste incinerators.
  3. By eating a fish or any marine animal affected with pollutants. Waste incinerators have failed to eliminate the need for a landfill as they also produce ash and toxic residues which need to be dumped off properly.


Financial Impacts

In all the developed economies, more than half of the total waste-to-energy technology investment is used for control systems that reduce harmful emissions such as cadmium, dioxins, lead, mercury, and other volatile organic compounds. A single incinerator of 2000 MT capacity can cost up to $500 million.

Another factor that makes the combustion process uneconomical and polluting is the need for adding auxiliary fuel to convert massive amounts of garbage. On average, developing countries produce trash with a calorific value of 800 Cal per kg, which is not enough. Combustion technologies work perfectly with a minimum calorific value of 2500 Cal/kg fuel.



It is increasingly essential to adopt alternative methods like waste-to-energy technologies for the appropriate disposal of garbage and converting it into something useful like electricity or heat. We are in dire need of low-cost solutions, but it shouldn’t be based on compromising human health and environment safety.

  • Guest Author

    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

1 thought on “Waste To Energy Technologies to Watch in 2020”

  1. Great article, its overwhelming to see so many innovative technologies being invented to create energy from waste. Some more unique processes I came across recently in an article (linked below) are :
    1. Gasification
    2. Plasma Gasification
    3. Hydrothermal Carbonization
    4. Dendro Liquid Energy Process

    Check out this article for more information on these. https://www.valuer.ai/blog/top-innovative-technologies-in-waste-to-energy
    It surely complements your article positively.


What do you think? Leave a comment!