The misconception of Zero-Waste

Secondary energy-recovery from solid carbonaceous fuels follows the same implications as coal-power – fuel has to be burned continuously and energy recovered that you can’t use at the moment it is produced, you lose. Therefore European cement-industry started to generously offer co-incineration in their kilns directly using the recovered energy as process heat and enjoying a product volume increase from slag and contemplate to save 2 barrels crude oil per tonne secondary resource fuel. But they conceal that such fuel replacement decreases Carbon Efficiency by ⅓.


Interestingly secondary resource fuels have practically no market in North America, where Natural Gas is available at prices, never allowing an arms’ length amortization for all the flue gas cleaning investments for refuse derived fuel. Satisfying that industry’s hunger for process-heat energy by Natural Gas improves Carbon Efficiency 20% over fuel-oil and 2 times that value over refuse derived fuel.

Current waste incineration practices stem from several decades ago and can only be established where the public does not object to its ultimate flue gas emissions and pays the investments and continuous operation cost-overruns – but it is commonly unknown across how many channels this cost-socialization affects their living cost. So rich countries may afford to overpay for such waste treatment and let the ordinary consumers sponsor Cement Industry for squandering Carbon into atmosphere.

If you had ever heard of Urban Mining you might further picture that incineration transforms ingredients of #refuse unnecessarily into unusable or even poisonous form? This could be omitted if instead of burning secondary resources were decomposed and refined under exclusion of Oxygen. Cement Industry could still get the non-reusable inorganic residues as a filler to their product – the majority of Carbon and Hydrogen could remain in chemically usable form for whatever downstream use and a great part of ashes could go back into soil replenishment or supply chains of industrial production.

The Technologies exist and e.g. Enerkem has already demonstrated one way of doing better than what is nowadays advertised as Best Available Technology through incineration stakeholders who have built a nice business model for themselves on the expense of ordinary consumers named Zero Waste. Unfortunately they have been being building prominent lobbies to defend anything “better” than what they call “good”!

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