Energy Supply:

Energy Potential of Municipal Solid Waste Is Limited

RCED-94-200: Published: Sep 20, 1994. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the potential environmental impacts of producing energy from solid waste, focusing on the: (1) Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to use waste as a viable energy source; and (2) potential energy savings from and environmental impacts for recycling waste material.

GAO found that: (1) energy recovery from municipal solid waste has the potential for making only a limited contribution to the nation's overall energy production; (2) energy production from waste combustors and landfill gases generates pollutants, but these pollutants are reduced through current regulations that require the use of emissions control technology and define operational criteria for landfills; (3) DOE research and development efforts include improving the operational performance of combustors and refining the technology for increasing energy production at waste landfills; and (4) the energy savings and environmental impacts of recycling programs have yet to be clearly demonstrated.

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