Effect of Recycling Activities on the Heating Value of Solid Waste: Case Study of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver)

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Waste Management and Research






Two main goals of the integrated solid waste management system (ISWMS) of Metro Vancouver (MV) include further recycling of waste and energy recovery via incineration of waste. These two very common goals, however, are not always compatible enough to fit in an ISWMS depending on waste characteristics and details of recycling programs. This study showed that recent recycling activities in MV have negatively affected the net heating value (NHV) of municipal solid waste (MSW) in this regional district. Results show that meeting MV’s goal for additional recycling of MSW by 2015 will further reduce the NHV of waste, if additional recycling activities are solely focused on more extensive recycling of packaging materials (e.g. paper and plastic). It is concluded that 50% additional recycling of paper and plastic in MV will increase the overall recycling rate to 70% (as targeted by the MV for 2015) and result in more than 8% reduction in NHV of MSW. This reduction translates to up to 2.3 million Canadian dollar (CAD$) less revenue at a potential waste-to-energy (WTE) plant with 500 000 tonnes year−1 capacity. Properly designed recycling programmes, however, can make this functional element of ISWMS compatible with green goals of energy recovery from waste. Herein an explanation of how communities can increase their recycling activities without affecting the feasibility of potential WTE projects is presented.