Given the need to meet the world’s rising energy needs, policy makers have been calling for a comprehensive energy policy program. The energy recovery from plastic waste is one such example of innovative energy approach, that has been getting a lot of attention lately.
There are a couple of reasons plastic is considered as a prospective material for energy production. Firstly, it provides the low-cost renewable energy. Secondly, the complexity and cost associated with plastic recycling are higher. What’s more, the rising crude oil prices have compelled energy suppliers to look out for materials that are available in abundance and can be converted into efficient energy without much hassle.
Plastic Waste – An Alternative to Coal!
It is estimated that just 114 million ton of plastic waste can produce the energy = to the energy produced by 237-million-ton coal! The emergence of plastic waste as the low-cost energy source is significantly gaining momentum worldwide.
Plastics have a very high heating value, almost 40MJ/kg. It has a high carbon and hydrogen content and low ash content. This typical heating value is observed in the natural gas whose heating value is 48 MJ/kg. Coal has a heating value of about 28 MJ/kg while paper and wood have 15–16 MJ/kg. This makes plastic a good and viable alternative to fossil fuels.
Rapid advances in new technology for waste plastics and increasing adoption of such technology will create huge opportunities for the plastic waste market. Energy recovery from plastic waste is realized in incarnation plants and cement kilns. Some techniques also involve co-combustion of waste plastics using pulverized-fuel boilers and bed boilers. Some countries like Japan and Germany employ metallurgical processes to extract energy from plastics.
Since plastic recycling has technical, economical, and environmental implications; energy recovery is an appropriate way to harness the value of waste plastics.