Municipal solid waste (MSW) is the waste that human activities generate and originates from our communities, households, and commercial/institutional buildings. Some two billion tons of MSW are generated globally each year, with about one-third coming from high-income countries in Europe and North America. The World Bank forecasts that the global MSW will increase to about 3.4 billion tons by 2050.
MSW consists of an organic part of food and green waste, and a dry-waste part including plastics, paper, cardboard, metal, and glasses. MSW is collected separately and can be recycled in different ways. The food and green wastes can be recycled through composting, breaking them down to clean inert gases and organic fertilizers. The dry wastes are sorted and go through a mechanical recycling process, after which the reusable materials are sent back and reused.
In chemical conversion, a portion of the plastics in the MSW can be processed through pyrolysis. Here the plastics are broken down to the so-called pyrolysis oil, which can be used as the feedstock for steam crackers to produce the basic chemicals of ethylene and propylene again. What is left in the MSW is the residue, which is the hardest to recycle. This residue stream is usually landfilled or burned in an incinerator, and often results in toxic gases and long-lasting pollution to our air, water, and soil. A better solution is to send the residue stream to a gasification reactor, where the solid wastes are converted to syngas, a starting point for a large variety of chemicals.
Among its 150+ experts, Lee Enterprises Consulting has a wide range of services in the bioeconomy – bioenergy, biomaterials and chemicals, biotechnologies, feedstocks, and municipal solid waste. Take a look at our experts and the services we provide. You will note that most of our experts are also available for ancillary engagements and advice, for specialty engagements like serving as expert witnesses in litigation matters. A good overview of our group is found in this video. Call us at 1+ (501) 833-8511 or email us for more information.