The Different Types & Methods Of Waste Incineration

In the guide below, we outline the different types and methods of waste incineration.

We categorise these different types and methods of waste incineration by waste type, incinerator technology & plant design, incinerator features, and more.


Firstly, What Is Waste Incineration?

In the most basic sense, waste incineration is the thermal treatment of waste.


According to ‘Incineration is a method of thermally reducing the volume of combustible waste …’


According to ‘Incineration is a waste treatment process that involves the combustion of substances contained in waste materials’


Secondly, What Is Waste-To-Energy Incineration?

What Waste-To-Energy Incineration Is

Some of the main by-products of waste incineration (i.e. what the waste is converted into) are ash, flue gas, and heat.

Some plants are waste-to-energy plants, and these plants can use heat to generate electricity.

For example, the heat may heat up water, which produces steam, and the steam powers turbines to generate electricity.


Waste-To-Energy Incineration vs Other Waste To Energy Processes mentions that waste to energy incineration is one of a range of waste to energy processes. Gasification, pyrolysis and plasma arc technologies are other thermal processes, whilst there are biological processes as well, and methane can also be captured from landfill. outlines the different between incineration and gasification technologies:

While incineration and gasification technologies are similar in principle, the energy produced from incineration is high-temperature heat whereas combustible gas is often the main energy product from gasification.

Incineration and gasification may also be implemented without energy and materials recovery


Different Types & Methods Of Incineration

The different ways to categorise different types and methods of incineration might include:

– By the incinerator technology, design, features, or application

– By the type of waste being treated 


We discuss some of these points in the guide below.


Different Incinerators, Different Incinerator Technologies, & Different Plant Designs

Different Types Of Incinerators, Incinerator Technology, & Plant Designs

Different incinerators (also called furnaces) use different technologies and incinerator plant designs for the combustion of different types of waste. also mentions that different incinerator furnace types can be categorised according to their application.

Some of the different incinerator technologies and plant designs are:


– Moving Grate Incinerators

According to both, and, the most common incinerator for municipal solid waste is a moving grate incinerator

Moving grate incinerators are sometimes referred to as ‘Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators’ for this reason

The ability of the grate to move helps move the waste inside the combustion chamber, which in turn helps optimize more efficient and complete combustion of the waste


– Fixed Grate Incinerators

An older and simpler incinerator than the moving grate incinerator

It has a fixed metal grate instead of a moving one


– Rotary Kiln Incinerators

An incinerator used by municipalities and by large industrial plants

Rotary kiln incinerators have a primary chamber and a secondary chamber

The way different rotary kiln incinerators work might differ slightly (depending on the incinerator machinery, and who it’s designed by), but in general, the primary combustion chamber accepts the waste and converts it from it’s original form to gas form, and passes it onto the secondary chamber which completes the gas combustion process

The primary chamber usually rotates, either to move the waste or to make burning easier, or both. The secondary chamber can be static. mentions that ‘Rotary kiln incineration systems are ideal for processing mixed industrial and hazardous wastes that include a combination of solids, sludge, and liquids’. mentions they are for industrial waste

And, mentions that ‘Rotary kiln incinerators are becoming increasingly more widespread, as the incineration industry evolves to handle more complex and diverse waste streams’


– Fluidized Bed Incinerators

A fluidized bed involves creating a ‘fluidized bed’ of sand (or other granular material), and pre-heated air inside a furnace

The air is blown at a speed that keeps the sand floating/suspended

Waste (and sometimes fuel) is added to the furnace, and heat is transferred to the waste to incinerate it and indicate that fluidized bed incinerators are for municipal sludge and general sewage sludge, whilst,, and say they are for industrial waste and sludge


– Multiple Hearth Furnaces

MHF’s consist of a series of hearths

Several reports indicate that multiple hearth furnaces are for the treatment/incineration of wastewater biosolids and sewage sludge

The sludge is treated as it falls through to each lower hearth in the MHF shell


– Shaft Furnaces

There can be different types of shaft furnaces

For example, metallurgical shaft furnaces may deal with municipal solid waste, whilst vertical shaft furnaces also exist

Shaft furnaces that deal with specialty waste like radioactive waste may also be in the design stage


– Specialised Incinerators

Both and mention that more specialized incinerators can incinerate hazardous waste

Waste from hospitals, waste from research facilities, and toxic and chemical wastes are all examples of waste that may be incinerated with a specialised incinerator


– Other Forms Of Incineration

Other forms of incineration that might be simpler and not involve the use of engineered incinerator plant machinery include:


Burn Pile Incineration – an open mound of waste that is set on fire. A simple and early form of incineration.


Burn Barrel Incineration – waste is burned inside a metal barrel with metal grating over the exhaust


Pros & Cons Of Different Types Of Incinerators

There can be different pros and cons for the different incinerators. lists some of the benefits of moving grate incinerator for example, such as not needing to sort mixed waste before putting it in a moving grate incinerator, being able to process large quantities of waste, and perhaps being one of the most efficient and cheapest forms of large scale incineration also mentions that ‘Compared to other waste to energy technologies … like gasification and pyrolysis technologies … [moving grate incineration isn’t as limited] in scale, [or] in material for industrial/hazardous waste treatment, [and it doesn’t require] preprocessing of mixd MSW before feeding.

In addition to these benefits, moving grate incinerators can recover energy for electricity, and may be suitable for developing countries too.


Features That Can Differ Between Incinerators

Different incinerators also have different technology and devices for:

– The use of heat

– Mitigating and managing pollution (such as flue gas cleaning)

– Gaseous emissions that can impact human health (dioxins and furans)

– Solid outputs, and solid waste material left over from combustion


Other features and methods that can differ between different incinerators can include:

– Incinerator size, plant capacity (the amount of waste that can be incinerated, or the rate of incineration), operating schedule (continuous, or separate shift schedules), dry or wet methods of ash extraction, the method of exposing burning material to combustion air fuel requirements, emission rate, and more


Different Combustion Methods, & Different Combustion Systms also mentions that there is submerged combustion, and vortex combustion to consider mentions that submerged combustion systems are for various types of liquid waste discharged from production processes

Vortex combustion is a system for waste-to-energy conversion that might use a cyclonic thermal process, or a vortex combustion chamber


Incineration By Waste Type

Incineration can also be categorised by the type of waste being incinerated.

These different types of waste may go to different incinerator sites, or different incinerators on the same site.

There might be two main ways to group the different waste types:


First Way To Group Different Waste Types

The first way to group waste types might be by the type of waste stream.

The different waste streams might include:

– Municipal Solid Waste

– Commercial & Industrial Waste

– Hazardous Waste

– Special Waste, such as Medical Waste


Second Way To Group Different Waste Types

The second way to group waste types might be by the traits/properties of the waste.

The different waste types by traits/properties might include:

– Solid Waste

– Gaseous Waste

– Liquid Waste (& Sludge Waste) groups gases and liquids together, and solid waste by itself


Potential Pros & Cons Of Waste Incineration

We outline some of the potential pros and cons of waste incineration in this guide.



















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