Waste treatment and materials recycling

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Processes and equipment ensuring better energy conservation should be considered as contributing to the development of green technologies, which aim at protecting the environment and preserving natural resources (energy, matter, raw materials).

Green technologies are to be found in all sectors of the economy. They also include antipollution technologies that are used to tackle any air, water and soil pollution.

An important application area for green technologies is waste treatment, in order to avoid polluting the environment and to recycle the maximum amount of raw materials which are used.

Wastes, which represent a risk for the environment, can therefore become a resource:

• They can be used for generating energy, either directly in incineration plants, or after transformation into a fuel (biogas, pyrolysis oil or second generation biofuel).

• Raw materials can be recycled; while avoiding the pollution which would result from dumping the waste in the environment, this recycling helps to preserve the raw material thus recovered. It also represents a way to reduce energy consumption, as the amount of energy required for recycling the material is usually lower than the amount required for the initial transformation.

Recycling of raw materials is already widely practised. The supply of iron for the production of cast iron and steel was ensured in 2004 by using 1100 Mt iron ore supplying 695 Mt of iron and 400 Mt of scrap iron supplying 300 Mt of iron. Excluding CO2 emissions resulting from the generation of the electricity needed for the transformation process (which depends upon the energy source), the quantity of CO2 generated is 2200 kg per ton of steel in the case of a production pathway starting from iron ore (blast furnace and oxygen converter) and only 100 kg when starting from scrap iron. This means that emissions reduction is huge especially if using electricity with low carbon content [49].

A better use of resources is to be based both upon recycling (or 'circular economy') and 'functionality'. Functionality consists of supplying a service rather than selling equipment, which results in better use of the equipment and necessary resources while recycling any used component [50].

Research actions required

... For reducing energy consumption while protecting the environment

- New better performing and lower energy content materials

• Insulation and phase transition materials

• Highly resistant composite materials, for reducing the weight of vehicles (road or air transportation)

- Thermal systems

• Heat exchange systems

• Thermodynamic cycles for upgrading low temperature heat

- High efficiency internal combustion engines

• New combustion processes

• Hybrid power train

- Energy storage

• High performance batteries

• Underground energy storage (compressed gas, heat, hydrogen)

• Electrochemical liquid phase storage

- Green technologies

• Analysis and characterisation of pollutants (in the atmosphere, water and soil)

• Treatment of industrial emissions

• Treatment of polluted air, water or soil

- Waste treatment and recycling

• Energy production

• Recovery and recycling of raw materials

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