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Evaluation of Advanced Waste-to-Energy Technologies in New York State


  • New York state needed to understand the impacts of advanced waste-to-energy strategies.
  • Abt created baseline and scenario modeling of waste disposal and associated impacts.
  • Our results can answer key questions for decision-makers about the viability of WTE.
The Challenge

In 2012, New York state (NYS) generated over 17.8 million tons of municipal solid waste. An assessment of the options for reducing landfilled waste and emissions through the use of advanced waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies was needed, as was an understanding of the public policy rationale for these technologies. Both would inform a New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) evaluation of advanced WTE policies and proposals. The evaluation is integral to identifying and mitigating technical, market and regulatory barriers, and to reducing the environmental impact of municipal solid waste (MSW) in NYS.

The Approach

Abt estimated the environmental impacts of the current disposal methods used in NYS, including landfilling, combustion and the export of MSW.  Emissions—including greenhouse gases and secondary pollutants—were estimated and projected from 1960 to 2050. Next, we analyzed the environmental and economic impacts of five advanced, gasification-based WTE technologies. We also assessed potential policy and regulatory changes that might re-shape the market for advanced WTE technologies.

advanced waste to energy
As part of our work with NYSERDA, we developed this advanced waste-to-energy (WTE) scenario schematic to help decision makers understand the key factors that influence the viability and performance of WTE technologies.
The Results

Abt developed an Excel-based scenario modeling tool and used it to estimate changes in emissions and costs. We identified key factors affecting the viability and performance of WTE technologies, including the degree of pre-sorting of waste inputs to the process, and the use of supplemental fuel. Based on the findings regarding the incremental impacts of implementing advanced WTE technologies in NYS, we produced a report, a briefing and a set of essential questions and answers. These can be used to guide the state in its interactions with WTE companies that are appealing for public support and funding.