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Phoenix Energy Blog
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Is WtE Viable for Small Cities? What Can Small Cities do


Waste to energy, is a technological solution that combines waste management and energy generation. Various kinds of organic and treatable waste products are collected and processed to turn into fuels such as syngas, flue gas, biogas, fuel pellets or are directly incinerated to produce heat. Such wastes to energy or WtE power plants require a constant supply of waste products and waste treatment plants.

WtE power plants require considerable quantities of organic and combustible wastes for the energy generation to be viable. This poses a question on their viability as a waste management and energy generation solution for small cities. One of the main issues with small cities that face a waste management problem are the inherent inefficiencies in the government process and the attitude of the residents and staff. Once the proposal of a waste to energy plant is given, everyone thinks that it is the energy company’s responsibility to completely manage and segregate the waste for energy generation. This does away with any kind of protocol or discipline that was practiced before with regards to various kinds of wastes. This problem is very prominently visible in a lot of developing countries in Africa and Asia.

Other viable solutions for small cities

Waste to energy power plants need particular kinds of solid wastes and in enough quantities. For waste compositions that do not follow the optimized waste to energy requirements, there are other steps such cities can take for managing their wastes better. Cities with population range from 10,000 to 50,000 should focus more on waste segregation and recycling rather than establishing waste to energy power plants. Some of the various steps that small cities can take to manage their waste better are mentioned below.

  • The local urban bodies should focus on segregation of wastes at the home level itself. By separating wastes into recyclable materials and wet organic wastes, the segregation process can be streamlined from the beginning itself.
  • Other viable technologies such as bio-methanation, composting and anaerobic decomposition can be used to manage degradable organic wastes. These process can be deployed at the site itself and any residual wastes that are left behind can be collected by a separate body of waste collectors.
  • A user fee can be implemented which needs to be paid by generators.
  • Spot fines are a particularly popular way of controlling littering in populated small cities where maintaining the discipline of waste management can get difficult.
  • All the interested stakeholders in the management of solid municipal wastes such as households, companies and businesses, NGOs, factories and various urban local bodies should be brought on one page and their activities must be coordinated properly.
  • The local government can engage in various kinds of awareness and education programs that inform the residents about the best waste management practices and can suggest improvements in daily lives and operations that can lead less waste generation.
While WtE power plants are a convenient solution to a complex problem, its effects and viability must be studied before direct implementation

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