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Waste to energy (WTE) in China: from latecomer to front runner


This paper discusses the 2000–2018 evolution of energy and metals recovery from urban wastes in the European Union and China. As a result of the zero-landfilling directive, in twenty years the European Union tripled its recycling rate (11%–30%) and its composting rate (6%–17%), doubled its WTE rate (14%–28%) and more than halved its landfilling (64%25%). At the beginning of this century, the rapidly growing cities of China were literally surrounded by landfills. Therefore, the national government instituted policies, such as a credit of US$30 per MWh of WTE (waste to energy) electricity that resulted in the construction, by 2020, of 510 WTE plants with an annual WTE capacity of 193 million tons. In comparison, the European Union (EU) WTE capacity is 96 million tons and the USA has remained static at about 27 million tons, i.e., 10% of its post-recycling MSW (municipal solid waste), with the other 90% being landfilled. In the first decade of this century, two WTE technologies, moving grate and circulating fluid bed were developed in China at about the same rate. However, since 2010, the moving grate technology has become dominant and the WTE plants are built functionally and esthetically comparable to and U.S. plants.

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Correspondence to Wenchao Ma.

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Themelis, N.J., Ma, W. Waste to energy (WTE) in China: from latecomer to front runner. Waste Dispos. Sustain. Energy 3, 267–274 (2021).

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  • Waste to energy
  • WTE capacity
  • Moving grate
  • Circulating fluid bed
  • Sustainable waste management