A conveyer belt delivers shredded trash into a chamber, where it’s mixed with oxygen and steam heated to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. This process, called gasification, transforms about 80 percent of the waste into a mixture of gases that are piped out of the system.
2. Plasma Blasting
Material that doesn’t succumb to the initial heat enters a specially insulated cauldron. An 18,000-degree electric arc that runs between two electrodes creates a plasma zone in the center of the container. Exposed to this intense heat, almost all the remaining trash gets blasted into its constituent atomic elements. Again, the resulting gases are piped out and sequestered.
3. Hazmat Capture
At the bottom of the cauldron sits a joule-heated melter, which is like coils on an electric stove and maintains a molten glass bath that traps any hazardous material left over from the plasma process.
Swirling in a taffy-like ooze, the molten glass is drawn out of the system. Now inert, it can be converted into low-value materials such as road aggregate. Metals are captured at this point, too, and later recycled into steel.
5. Fuel Capture
The sequestered gases, known as syngas—mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen—are cleaned and can be sold and converted to fuels like diesel or ethanol to produce electricity onsite or elsewhere.