Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)

MSW, the most abundant waste form on the planet, is an ideal feedstock for FastOx gasification. Learn what constitutes MSW, where it comes from, and why it is great for FastOx gasification.

What is MSW?

Municipal solid waste (MSW) is defined by the EPA as waste containing everyday items “such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries,” which come from “homes, schools, hospitals, and businesses” (EPA, 2014).

In 2014, Americans produced over 258 million tons of MSW. The majority of this waste is sent to landfills which in 2013 collected an average tip fee of $49 per ton (EPA, 2014). This rate of trash generation translates to over 1,600 pounds produced by a single person in a year. Over a lifetime, that’s equivalent to the weight of 14.5 school buses!


For a landfill, the weight of the trash does not matter as much as the volume. Items like Styrofoam, crumpled paper, and empty bottles and cans take up a disproportionate amount of space for their weight. In other words, trash is very light for its volume, relatively speaking.

Let’s assume an average density for trash of 0.33 grams per cubic centimeter and that there are 300 million people living in the United States. This means that 300 million people, each producing 4.4 pounds of trash per day, generate 23.42 billion cubic feet of trash per year! If you made the pile of trash 400 feet deep (as tall as a 40-story building), it would cover more than 1,000 acres of land.
Continued reading EPA’s 2014 MSW report here.


FastOx Gasification MSW Case Studies

All of Sierra Energy’s modeled municipal solid waste (MSW) assumes that it is consistent with typical California post-recycling municipal solid waste at 10% moisture content by weight (unless otherwise noted). According to a CalRecycle report from 2014, the typical composition of municipal solid waste in CA is as follows:

The energy content of bone dry (i.e. no moisture) municipal solid waste is roughly 15-16 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg), which translates to 14-15 million BTUs per metric ton (MMBTU/MT).

This means that from 100 metric tons per day of municipal solid waste, FastOx® systems can generate one of following valuable end products:

  • 67.3 megawatt-hours of electricity per day (MWhe/day)
  • 2,982 gallons of diesel per day
  • 5,400 kilograms of hydrogen gas per day


Our calculations assumes a system configuration that includes pre-drying and syngas recycling.

Explore how much energy municipal solid waste can produce in FastOx systems using our online calculator.