Thermal technologies, such as gasification, pyrolysis, waste-to-energy (WTE), and advanced thermal recycling (second generation WTE with the most advanced air emission control system), can be employed to recover energy from municipal solid waste (MSW), reduce the volume of material to be landfilled, and lessen the potential emission of methane. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and a major component of landfill gas. All operating WTE facilities in the United States have been subjected to strict environmental regulations since the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990. As a result, U.S. WTE facilities now meet or exceed stringent local air quality standards, including those imposed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in Southern California. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the important role of WTE in the integrated solid waste management and ranks combustion higher than landfilling in its solid waste management hierarchy. In addition to upstream source reduction and recycling, downstream thermal treatment of the residual MSW (conducted in controlled environment) can effectively recover energy and further reduce waste volume. Despite all the advantages and environmental benefits of thermal technologies, its utilization for treating MSW in California still faces many challenges. These include negative public perceptions, economical disadvantages, local marketability of by-products, and disposal options for residuals. This paper discusses the need to include energy recovery in the integrated MSW management in California and the challenges encountered by many local jurisdictions.

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