Use of MRF residue as alternative fuel in cement production

J.R. Fyffe, A.C. Breckel, A.K. Townsend, and M.E. Webber, January 2016 (Citation)


Single-stream recycling has helped divert millions of metric tons of waste from landfills in the U.S., where recycling rates for municipal solid waste are currently over 30%. However, material recovery facilities (MRFs) that sort the municipal recycled streams do not recover 100% of the incoming material. Consequently, they landfill between 5% and 15% of total processed material as residue. This residue is primarily composed of high-energy-content non-recycled plastics and fiber. One possible end-of-life solution for these energy-dense materials is to process the residue into Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) that can be used as an alternative energy resource capable of replacing or supplementing fuel resources such as coal, natural gas, petroleum coke, or biomass in many industrial and power production processes. This report addresses the energetic and environmental benefits and trade-offs of converting non-recycled post-consumer plastics and fiber derived from MRF residue streams into SRF for use in a cement kiln. An experimental test burn of 118Mg of SRF in the precalciner portion of the cement kiln was conducted. The SRF was a blend of 60% MRF residue and 40% post-industrial waste products producing an estimated 60% plastic and 40% fibrous material mixture. The SRF was fed into the kiln at 0.9Mg/h for 24h and then 1.8Mg/h for the following 48h. The emissions data recorded in the experimental test burn were used to perform the life-cycle analysis portion of this study. The analysis included the following steps: transportation, landfill, processing and fuel combustion at the cement kiln. The energy use and emissions at each step is tracked for the two cases: (1) The Reference Case, where MRF residue is disposed of in a landfill and the cement kiln uses coal as its fuel source, and (2) The SRF Case, in which MRF residue is processed into SRF and used to offset some portion of coal use at the cement kiln. The experimental test burn and accompanying analysis indicate that using MRF residue to produce SRF for use in cement kilns is likely an advantageous alternative to disposal of the residue in landfills. The use of SRF can offset fossil fuel use, reduce CO2 emissions, and divert energy-dense materials away from landfills. For this test-case, the use of SRF offset between 7700 and 8700Mg of coal use, reduced CO2 emissions by at least 1.4%, and diverted over 7950Mg of energy-dense materials away from landfills. In addition, emissions were reduced by at least 19% for SO2, while NOX emissions increased by between 16% and 24%. Changes in emissions of particulate matter, mercury, hydrogen chloride, and total-hydrocarbons were all less than plus or minus 2.2%, however these emissions were not measured at the cement kiln. Co-location of MRFs, SRF production facilities, and landfills can increase the benefits of SRF use even further by reducing transportation requirements.


J.R. Fyffe, A.C. Breckel, A.K. Townsend, and M.E. Webber, “Use of MRF residue as alternative fuel in cement production,” Waste Management 47, pp. 276–284 (2016).