Waste to Profit
How you can get energy and money from recycling.
There are several ways that Humans get energy from various recycling practices. In some cases energy is saved because it is easier to re-melt a refined product to make new, like in the case of metal or glass. In other cases, changing practices can recycle waste heat and generate power from it that would otherwise be lost.
Recycling in itself saves energy. There is less spent on extraction of raw materials, refining those materials, and transporting of them too. Glass, metal, paper fiber, and even pure plastic melts can be much easier to reform into new products then it would be to create those products from start to finish. A recycled aluminum can takes five percent of the power as one made from raw bauxite ore does. In this way humans ‘get’ energy for other things because less is expended in making new things. Other metals have similar savings, although not as dramatic. Lead and zinc save 60%, steel saves 62-74% and copper saves 85%. Recycling plastic saves 90% in power, and reduces the 10% of 2 millions barrels of oil a day that are consumed in making new plastics. Glass saves 33% on energy to make plus reduces energy used in transporting raw materials. Paper that is recycled saves 60% on the consumption.
There are forms of recycling that applies to energy itself too. One of these is waste heat recovery. This process takes heat produced that would typically be considered a waste and a hazard and turns it into a way to generate electricity through steam generation. Many recycling and production plants also use waste heat recovery methods. A variation of this is waste heat recovery from air conditioning that actually works to store heat for release in the winter. This heat is stored in the ground and can be accessed using a heat pump in the winter. One should also be aware of Combined Heat and power which generates both heat and electrical power from the same fuel. Such a system generates power on site and provides thermal energy for heating as well. This can be combined with waste heat recovery also in order to generate more electricity as needed.
One other method needs to be mentioned here: the Recovered Energy System. This system attempts to recycle every bit of waste fed into it, including heat, into new products, including energy. It can be run without other recycling methods or with them, as needed.
How it works is by turning waste fed into it into a clean combustible gas. This gas is used to create electricity as part of a gas and steam turbine system or it can be turned into ethanol which may be blended to gasoline or used on its own as engine fuel. There is heat created in this process and it is treated with waste heat recovery methods. With it electricity is made, superheated steam is created, the boiler is maintained, and the gas is distilled. This method seeks to recover every chemical in a form that can be commercially marketed.