Thermodynamics is an important field of physics where it deals with the relationships between energy and various forms of transformation. In addition, it illustrates the limits of energy in the universe where inefficiency, degeneration and decay of energy are explained. According to the first law of thermodynamics, it states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed albeit is always conserved; additionally, the second law of thermodynamics explains that energy always tends to flow from a more usable and higher-quality form to a less usable and lower-quality form. As such, it is of paramount importance for humanity to find ways where on one hand, energy efficiency can be maximized, on the other hand, energy loss and emissions of pollutants can be minimized, thus paving a way for a more sustainable future, and energy recovery can be the answer to address this issue.
Hence, this research paper investigates whether it is cost effective to increase the scale of energy recovery (e.g. incineration) across the country (Australia) to build a more sustainable environment; moreover, comparisons are made between Australia and Sweden to justify the effectiveness in use of energy recovery.
To begin with, the National Waste Report published in 2010 states that energy recovery refers to the process to recover energy from waste materials, mostly through thermal processes, and incineration is the most common practice of energy recovery. To elaborate, energy recovery also involves waste-to-energy process which is the generation of electrical and heat energy through incineration of waste (National Waste Report 2010).
According to a statistics report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 25 million tons of waste material was dumped in landfill in 2011, amount to roughly 44% of the total waste material output from the country. While more of those waste materials could be recovered and reused through enhanced recycling infrastructure and hardware component, much of it remains too tainted and contaminated. When comparing to dumping these waste materials in landfill, energy recovery would be a better option in terms of economic and environmental outcome. Hence, with millions of tons of waste materials available for waste-to-energy resource, energy demand from thousands of households can be satisfied. Nonetheless, there are currently six existing waste-to-energy facilities located across Australian continent: Heck Group's 'Rocky Point Power Station', TPI + Veolia's 'EarthPower' Anaerobic Digester, Visy's 'Coolaroo' Paper Co-generation, Australian Paper's 'Maryvale Mill' Co-Generation, Visy Gibson Island Paper Recycling, and last but not least, Nestle Gimpie Coffee Manufacturing. Overall, the number of waste-to-energy facilities located in Australia is relatively less than other developed countries, especially Sweden which has 32 waste-to-energy plants.
There are several reasons for comparing Australia and Sweden in the use of energy recovery. The first reason being is that Sweden is well-known for being a “Green” country and the use of energy recovery through incineration: Sweden is sending 50 % of its waste materials to resource recovery and 49% to energy recovery, only 1% of all waste materials are dumped in landfill. As such, improvements can be made through learning from Sweden’s approach and policy making on energy recovery and justify the urgency to expand the use of energy recovery in Australia.
Secondly, Australian cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra have comparable arable land (hectares per person) ratios