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What can and cannot be sent to an incinerator plant (Virginia) for producing electricity from heat? Can there be anything other than plastics, metals, and paper products in the bin?

  • Welcome to Sustainable Living! I've edited your question. Hopefully this is what you meant to ask. If not, please click on the 'edit' option below your question to change the question text again. – THelper Oct 3 '18 at 6:42
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A full answer will be very broad, so let me point out some things.
(I'm writing from a West-European perspective)

Basically: Anything that burns, and to a certain extent even non-burning material is acceptable. It's all a matter of efficiency.

  • Before separating the compost fraction from household waste was common, even that wet fraction was burned in the incinerator. It just resulted in a lower burn temperature, so less efficiency.
    (Actually, history was the other way around: When we reduced the wet fraction, temperatures went up, to a point where the first incinerators doing this had more problems with wear of the oven cladding.)
  • If you burn hazardous waste you need higher temperatures to avoid toxic chemicals in the smoke (or the ashes). Generally, things like biowaste and hazardous chemicals are burned in specialist ovens with a much higher temperature than 'ordinary' household/industrial waste.
  • What we see more over the last couple of years is adding agricultural and forestry material to the waste/fuel stream, because this counts as 'green energy'.
  • A certain amount of non-burning material is unavoidable in waste streams. Things like building rubble (stone) and metals are diverted into separate streams, but some of this your oven can handle. You will just get more ashes and slag, and will need to find a destination/purpose for that.

If you were to plan building an incinerator, you would do a calculation of the waste streams available to you (size, composition, transport distance and methods), the waste products you would have to get rid of, and design your oven around that.

  • In some cases you can use the heat in the flue gasses to dry out the input stream. This increases your efficiency. – Sherwood Botsford Oct 8 '18 at 22:25

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