How come plastic waste isn’t being burned for energy in specialized power plants?


Here’s what I know: 1) Plastic burns. 2) Heat can be used to generate energy with steam turbines, which I’m pretty sure is how nuclear power plants and fossil fuel plants work. 3) A specialized power plant can focus on increasing efficiency and decreasing pollution. 4) Plastic recycling is really hard and has been generally unsuccessful.

In: 9

Some trash incinerators do double as generation stations.

Waste incinerators aren’t particularly cost efficient for power generation because they need extensive scrubber systems to get all the nasty shit out of the exhaust.

Try all you like, but the waste streams are never truly sorted particularly well and all sorts of toxic chemicals and heavy metals get in to the incinerators.

Since 1988, La Crosse County has contracted with Xcel to [burn municipal waste]( at the French Island plant, one of only two waste-to-energy plants in the state. The plant, which burns a mixture of refuse-derived-fuel and wood chips, last year generated 82,250 megawatt hours, enough electricity to power about 9,800 homes

There is probably an issue with effort in vs power out. They probably can’t just toss everything in and hope for the best. They probably do a lot of work separating out hazardous materials that shouldn’t be burned. Anything galvanized steel, batteries, cleaning supplies… All probably really bad to release into the air. Plus, my sister went to college there and said when the wind blows the wrong way, you can definitely smell it from a decent chunk of town. Nobody’s gonna want that in their backyard, so you’d be better off putting it somewhere remote, and then you have the issue of transporting that power somewhere.

Most types of plastic release many harmful chemicals and fumes when burned. Practically speaking, burning plastics really would solve that much because those “forever chemicals” would still exist, just in a different form. In fact, it might be even more harmful to burn plastics since those chemicals can get into water and animal life, and while solid plastic waste isn’t ideal either, at least it’s contained.

Europe already does a massive amount of combustion of waste for energy. This can be expanded, but it’s always about the money – how much does investment cost versus benefit. However, if we properly priced externalities, it’d be more ubiquitous.

There’s no way to completely eliminate the pollution from the burning plastic. There’s also no way to ensure that there won’t be something else mixed in, you’d need an army of people hand sorting g every bit of waste so nothing slips in. Things that when burnt release even more toxic compounds.

The US at least, is eliminating diesel power plants. Something that can beade to run pretty clean and could use bio-diesal made from rapeseed. There’s no way something that burns anything, and makes much more pollution is going to be approved.