If you have municipal solid waste you can generate energy from this waste and produce electricity, gas and/or heat. A waste-to-energy (or energy-from-waste) plant converts solid waste into energy and sometimes other by-products.

Here’s an introduction to the technologies, processes and how it works:

How it works

There are several ways to generate energy from waste. The main techniques include combustion, gasification and pyrolysis.


Generating energy from waste with combustion is quite simple. All you need to do is burn waste at a high temperature to generate steam. The steam powers a turbine that generates electricity or heat in two or more boilers.


Gasification generates gas from waste. This is known as syngas. It works by combining municipal waste with chemicals and oxygen at high temperatures. The waste acts as feed to create syngas, which is widely used to make fuels.


Pyrolysis produces solids (charcoal, biochar), liquid and non-condensable gases (e.g. H2, CH4, CO, CO2, N). It works by heating organic material in the absence of oxygen, so the feed does not combust but the chemicals in the feed thermally decompose.

Waste to energy systems

One of the most overlooked aspects of waste to energy systems is front-end separation systems, which provide front-end separation to increase the quality of waste so that the waste-to-energy process is as efficient as possible.

These systems include metering equipment, density separators, separation screens, eddy currents, ferrous-removing magnets, optical sorters, trommels, conveyors, and balers. All of this equipment is needed in waste-to-energy plants.

We are a leading supplier of this equipment. Our waste-to-energy systems include all the front-end separation equipment mentioned above, built to specification so your operation can maximise energy generation and waste turnover.

Once waste has been separated to specification, it then enters a large chamber from a conveyor belt. The chamber contains a furnace that is heated to a precise temperature. As we discussed earlier with combustion and pyrolysis, the chamber can have oxygen, or it can be starved of oxygen, to produce different products.

How green is waste-to-energy?

Municipal waste, including organic waste and plastic waste that isn’t recyclable, has significant stored energy. All it needs is releasing. Waste-to-energy processes enable this, so they are considered ‘green’ in the waste management chain.

The alternative for much of this waste is landfill. An estimated 79% of waste is accumulating in landfills and 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.

All things considered, waste-to-energy is a necessary process in the waste management chain to deal with the amount of waste we produce.

It also has several proven environmental benefits:

  • Avoids methane emissions from landfills
  • Recovers metals and other reusable resources
  • Produces electricity and gas
  • Destroys chemical waste
  • Destroys plastics and laminates
  • Destroys NOx emissions with selective catalytic reduction
  • Uses less land per megawatt than other renewable energy sources

Find out more

If you operate a waste-to-energy plant we supply industry-leading front-end separation systems including density separators, separation screens, eddy currents, ferrous-removing magnets, optical sorters, trommels, conveyors, and balers.

We would be happy to discuss how our systems can improve your operation. Call us on +44 (0)1922 418005 or email sales@pdfl.uk.