- Incineration is a waste treatment technology that involves the combustion of organic materials and / or substances. Incineration and other high temperature waste treatment systems are described as "thermal treatment". Incineration of waste materials converts the waste into incinerator bottom ash, flue gases, particulates, and heat, which can in turn be used to generate electric power. The flue gases are cleaned of pollutants before they are dispersed in the atmosphere.
- Incineration with energy recovery is one of several waste-to-energy (WtE) technologies such as gasification, Plasma arc gasification, pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion. Incineration may also be implemented without energy and materials recovery.
- In several countries there are still expert and local community concerns about the environmental impact of incinerators. In some countries, incinerators built just a few decades ago often did not include a materials separation to remove hazardous, bulky or recyclable materials before combustion. These facilities tended to risk the health of the plant workers and the local environment due to inadequate levels of gas cleaning and combustion process control. Most of these facilities did not generate electricity.
- Incinerators reduce the mass of the original waste by 80–85 % and the volume (already compressed somewhat in garbage trucks) by 95-96 %, depending upon composition and degree of recovery of materials such as metals from the ash for recycling. This means that while incineration does not completely replace land filling, it reduces the necessary volume for disposal significantly.
- Garbage trucks often reduce the volume of waste in a built-in compressor before delivery to the incinerator. Alternatively, at landfills, the volume of the uncompressed garbage can be reduced by approximately 70% with the use of a stationary steel compressor, albeit with a significant energy cost. In many countries simpler waste compaction is a common practice for compaction at landfills.
- Incineration has particularly strong benefits for the treatment of certain waste types in niche areas such as clinical wastes and certain hazardous wastes where pathogens and toxins can be destroyed by high temperatures. Examples include chemical multi-product plants with diverse toxic or very toxic wastewater streams, which cannot be routed to a conventional wastewater treatment plant.
- Waste combustion is particularly popular in countries such as Japan where land is a scarce resource. Denmark and Sweden have been leaders in using the energy generated from incineration for more than a century, in localized combined heat and power facilities supporting district heating schemes. In 2005, waste incineration produced 4.8 % of the electricity consumption and 13.7 % of the total domestic heat consumption in Denmark. A number of other European Countries rely heavily on incineration for handling municipal waste, in particular Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Germany and France.
- Pyrolysis is the chemical decomposition of condensed substances by heating that occurs spontaneously at high enough temperatures. The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro "fire" and lysys "decomposition".Pyrolysis is a special case of thermolysis, and is most commonly used for organic materials, being then one of the processes involved in charring. The pyrolysis of wood, which starts above 300 °C, occurs for example in fires or when vegetation comes into contact with lava in volcanic eruptions. In general, pyrolysis of organic substances produces gas and liquid products and leaves a solid residue richer in carbon content. Extreme pyrolysis, which leaves mostly carbon as the residue, is called carbonization.
- This chemical process is heavily used in the chemical industry, for example, to produce charcoal, activated carbon, methanol and other chemicals from wood, to convert ethylene dichloride into vinyl chloride to make PVC, to produce coke from coal, to convert biomass into syngas, to turn waste into safely disposable substances, and for transforming medium-weight hydrocarbons from oil into lighter ones like gasoline. These specialized uses of pyrolysis may be called various names, such as dry distillation, destructive distillation, or cracking.
- Pyrolysis also plays an important role in several cooking procedures, such as baking, frying, grilling and caramelizing. It is also a tool of chemical analysis, for example in mass spectrometry and in carbon-14 dating. Indeed, many important chemical substances, such as phosphorus and sulfuric acid, were first obtained by this process. Pyrolysis has been assumed to take place during catagenesis, the conversion of buried organic matter to fossil fuels. It is also the basis of pyrography.
- Pyrolysis differs from other high-temperature processes like combustion and hydrolysis in that it does not involve reactions with oxygen, water, or any other reagents. However, the term has also been applied to the decompositon of organic material in the presence of superheated water or steam (hydrous pyrolysis), for example in the steam cracking of oil.
- Deforestation is the permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands. The term does not include the removal of industrial forests such as plantations of gums or pines. Deforestation has resulted in the reduction of indigenous forests to four-fifths of their pre-agricultural area. Indigenous forests now cover 21% of the earth's land surface.