Converting Waste Toilet Paper into Electricity: A First-Stage Technoeconomic Feasibility Study

Els van der Roest, Mijndert van der Spek*, Andrea Ramirez, Bob Van Der Zwaan, Gadi Rothenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We studied the possibility of converting waste toilet paper (WTP) into electricity. WTP is a waste stream with continuous availability and negative cost, but it is difficult to handle, as it contains fecal matter. The process we explored had two stages: WTP gasification followed by direct conversion into electricity in a high-temperature solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC). The process was studied on a 10 ktpa scale by using real-life parameter values obtained from industrial sources. We presented the basic system design, as well as its electricity yield and overall efficiency on the basis of detailed mass- and energy-balance calculations. By explorative technoeconomic analysis and sensitivity analysis, we found an electric efficiency of 57 %, which is similar to that of a natural gas combined cycle plant. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) was 20.3 ¢ kWh−1, which is comparable at present to that of residential photovoltaic installations. The system's capital costs are relatively high, mainly as a result of SOFC investment costs, but we expect these costs to decrease as the market of cells develops. The operating costs are relatively low, partly thanks to the high thermodynamic efficiency (≈70 %). Currently, the fuel costs are negative (because we use waste as a raw material), yet this could change if the value of WTP would increase as a result of this process. Learning effects could make the system more competitive in the future with an LCOE of approximately 11 ¢ kWh−1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2189-2197
Number of pages9
JournalRenewable Energy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • cellulose
  • circular economy
  • energy conversion
  • gasification
  • sustainable chemistry
  • waste reuse


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