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An innovative trash-to-energy technology that will convert garbage or trash into renewable energy is coming to the United States by way of an $80 million waste-management plant in Chicopee—a city in the Hampden County, Massachusetts. The proposed plant will feature the new environment-friendly technology. Surely, this bold idea will change the way people in Massachusetts—and later the rest of the country—handle their trash.

The Process Used in Trash-to-Energy Technology

Trash-to-energy technology involves the process of generating energy from the primary treatment of waste. This process is a form of energy recovery that begins from the collection of regular household waste that has been sorted for recyclables by homeowners. The collected trash is dumped on a tipping floor where large items such as old appliances, tires and other large pieces of metals are physically removed.

The trash that has been cleared of large pieces is then fed to and slowly rotated inside horizontal tanks filled with lukewarm water. Enzymes are added to help break down and liquefy the organic materials in the trash. The processed trash in the tanks is then automatically separated after the 18-hour process. Accordingly, the liquid in the tank will be piped to an anaerobic digester that converts it to a biogas product, which works in the same manner as the creation of methane during the breakdown of organic wastes in landfills. Like methane, the biogas produced in the converter is combustible and can be used in producing electricity. The electricity produced in the trash-to-energy technology plant could be sold on the electric grid, thus forming a renewable source of energy.

Electricity and Other By-Products

a photo of people gardening and cleaning up in the middle of a green field in relation to the topic of trash-to-energy technology coming to the United States
There is a need for environment-friendly technologies, such as the trash-to-energy technology coming to the U.S.

Aside from producing biogas for generating electricity, trash-to-energy technology generates various by-products from the process. The plastics, metals and glass that homeowners failed to collect for recycling are subjected to a very thorough cleansing process and will then be sold to the recycling market. The trash that did not break down—such as tin plastics—could be used in the production of engineered fuel that may be used as alternative fuel for coal-burning plants that create electricity. Also, the particulates that settle in the tank’s bottom could be used for other purposes.

Recycling Water And Creating Renewable Energy

The trash-to-energy technology involves the use of big volumes of water without wasting it because about 95 percent of the liquid is recirculated. The plant features a closed-loop system. So, very little water is lost. In addition, the trash-to-energy technology plant creates renewable energy in the same manner that a landfill creates methane as a result of the breakdown of organic materials. However, while it takes landfills 20 years to break down the materials and create methane, it takes only 20 hours for the trash-to-energy technology plant to produce the same results.

Trash-to Energy Technology in Massachusetts

DONG Energy REnescience—one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe with headquarters in Fredericia, Denmark—will be building the advanced recycling plant in Chicopee. The plant can handle 132,000 tons of solid waste per year. The company tested the new technology in its Copenhagen demonstration plant. It also opened their first large-scale plant in the United Kingdom this year.

The arrival of the new trash-to-energy technology is very timely for the city of Chicopee since it is facing potential problems due to the city landfill that is reaching its capacity. The Chicopee landfill will be closing in 2018—affecting not only its home city but all other communities that use the same landfill.

Because of the scheduled closure, Chicopee explored several options—and the trash-to-energy recycling plant proved to be the most viable one. This bold idea means that the city won’t have to look for another place to dump the city’s trash after the closure of the landfill. Dong officials are working with the Chicopee city government and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Energy Resources on the necessary permits and options for tax and energy credits, so they can open the trash-to-energy technology plant as soon as possible.

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