What are Conversion Technologies?
Conversion technologies refer to a wide array of state-of-the-art technologies capable of converting unrecyclable solid waste into useful products, such as green fuels and renewable energy, in an environmentally beneficial way. These technologies may be thermal, chemical, biological, mechanical, or a combination of processes, but do not include incineration (waste combustion).
Most conversion technologies can be described as having three separate and distinct components: (1) front-end MSW preprocessing, (2) the conversion unit, and (3) the energy/chemicals production system. Front-end preprocessing is used to prepare the solid waste for treatment by helping to separate and remove any recyclables.
The level of preprocessing varies depending on technology. Shredding, grinding, and/or drying the MSW may be required to create a more homogeneous feedstock for some of the thermal technologies. Alternatively, a water-based separation technique may be used in biological processes. The energy production module can be a gas turbine, boiler, or reciprocating engine for power production.
Utilizing conversion technologies to recover solid waste from disposal can:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other criteria pollutants;
- reduce dependence on landfilling and imported fossil fuels;
- enhance recycling efforts; and
- exceed California's strict environmental standards.
Conversion technologies are an integral process in achieving a zero-waste goal. These technologies not only create a beneficial product but also potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants This reduction is achieved through disposal and transportation avoidance, as well as through fuel/electricity offsets.