Energy recovery options for the management of cellulose-based bio-plastics and mixed municipal solid waste
The incomplete degradation of bio-plastics waste is undermining the suitability of current anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting, opening up the exploration of new treatment routes, including mixed waste. Bio-plastics are treated with mixed waste in a mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) plant with the production of a dry fraction for incineration and a biologically stable one for landfill. An alternative post-treatment of the bio-stabilised waste based on AD is possible. It follows that the main goal of this study is to verify the feasibility of managing cellulose-based bio-plastics with mixed municipal waste, comparing the AD of the MBT plant outputs with the possible solution of incineration. Experimental lab tests have been carried out to describe the two processes, whose results were the basis for an economic analysis. The values of biochemical methane potential (BMP) and higher heating value (HHV) are used as an index for AD and incineration, respectively. Samples with and without bio-plastics were created; fresh and processed (7 and 14 days of biostabilization) samples were, thus, analysed. For AD, the fresh waste averaged 177 NmL CH4/gVS and a 22% and 33% decrease in BMP value was achieved after 7 and 14 days of biostabilization, respectively. Samples with and without bio-plastics revealed a similar trend. 7 and 14 days of biostabilization increased the HHV of fresh waste (18.01 J/kg) of 16.1% and 19.7%, respectively. Bio-plastics did not significantly change the HHV. The economic analysis revealed the suitability of both AD and incineration, irrespective of the presence of bioplastics.