Turning waste into energy: burden to resource

This package will show how waste and wastewater can be used as energy resources. Extracting energy from waste/wastewater not only brings clear advantages in terms of replacing fossil fuels, but also avoids the release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere, helps ensure that waste and wastewater are collected and properly treated, reduces waste volume significantly, and contributes to the rational use and preservation of natural resources.

This package focuses mainly on municipal solid waste (MSW), but municipal wastewater (MWW) and wood based biomass cogeneration (CHP), will be also addressed. MSW can be defined as household waste as well as other types of waste which, due to their nature and composition, are similar to household waste, the management of which generally falls under the authority of local governments.

Motivation / Relevance

Methane from landfills represents 12% of total global methane emissions, and waste production is expected to double by 2025. The major GHG emissions from the waste sector are landfill methane (CH4) and, secondarily, wastewater methane and nitrous oxide (N2O).

Developing countries produce less waste per capita than developed countries but often use less advanced technological techniques to collect and manage waste, and very often service levels to the population are low. This can lead to problems for public health and the environment. In fact, improper treatment can lead to poor air quality, contamination of aquifers through the percolation of leachates in the soil and an increase of diseases amongst the population. A good waste management scheme enabling energy extraction from waste can contribute to alleviate these problems, and reduce GHG emissions, turning a problem into a resource.

Main impacts

  • Ensuring proper waste and wastewater collection and treatment thus minimizing health and environmental negative impacts.

Benefits and Co-Benefits

  • Reduction in the release of GHG gases in the atmosphere (namely CH4, a gas that has a greenhouse impact 21 times greater than that of CO2)
  • Use of local renewable energy resources for production of heat and/or electricity
  • Replacing fossil fuels


Low hanging fruit

Additional Information