Municipal solid wastes (MSW), in particular the organic fraction, could be a valuable source of energy. In Europe, 50 million tons of wastes were treated by waste-to-energy plants each year, producing an amount of energy enough for 27 million people (2005 figures). In the US, power plants fired with MSW accounted for 0.3% of the national power generation capacity, meeting the power needs of 2 million American homes annually. In 2005, approximately 17,600 tons of MSW were dumped into landfills each day in Hong Kong. If the energy in these wastes were extracted, it could fulfill a portion of our electricity needs.

Waste-to-energy is the process by which the energy content of wastes is converted into heat or electricity using various types of technologies. The major types of waste-to-energy technologies include landfill gas utilization, anaerobic digestion and thermal treatment with energy recovery.

Apart from generating power, waste-to-energy provides an alternative way for disposal of MSW, other than landfill. According to the document "A Policy Framework for the Management of Municipal Solid Waste (2005 - 2014)" of the Environmental Protection Department of the HK SAR Government, landfills in Hong Kong will be filled up within six to ten years from the date of the document. As land is scarce in Hong Kong, developing further large-scale landfills is not an entirely desirable option. Alternative ways for solid waste management need to be identified. Thermal treatment with energy recovery and anaerobic digestion could be among the options.

   
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