Brief Overview of Refuse-Derived Fuel Production and Energetic Valorization: Applied Technology and Main Challenges

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A large part of municipal solid waste (MSW) still goes to landfills, representing an environmental concern. A circular economy approach can enable safe management of MSW while mitigating the increasing energy needs when waste is used as a feedstock in energy production processes (waste to energy). Currently, MSW can be converted into refuse-derived fuel (RDF) through mechanical and biological treatment processes. This study analyzes the status of MSW and RDF production, as well as its main destinations in Portugal and Europe. The legislation applied, possible energy-recovery routes, and challenges associated with energy recovery are discussed throughout this paper. This research finds that the production of RDF in Portugal has been neglected, mostly because of RDF composition being quite heterogeneous and its poor fuel properties. Therefore, the need to improve and upgrade the characteristics and properties of RDF for waste-to-energy processes was detected. RDF can be pretreated to be further applied to waste-to-energy and waste-to-gas processes, such as incineration and gasification. The technology readiness level data, costs, and SWOT analysis allowedto assess that although incineration is the most mature and widely used technology, gasification becomes more attractive, having lower costs and gaseous emissions, proving to be more efficient and sustainable for MSW and RDF conversion.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10342
Number of pages22
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2023


  • municipal solid waste
  • refuse-derived fuel
  • waste-to-energy


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