Municipal solid waste (MSW) is posing great challenge for most countries in the world, which can cause severe negative impacts to the environment and human health. Waste-to-energy has great potential in China because of its technological maturity and policy support at the national level. However, there are significant conflicts between the huge market demand and strong public opposition. It is imperative to examine the public perception of waste-to-energy, especially for developing countries where a large number of projects are under construction or have been approved. The public perception of waste-to-energy was carried out by a questionnaire survey in this research. A total of 650 questionnaires were distributed and 629 questionnaires were returned, with a response rate of 96.8%. The results show that the public showed general concern in regard to environmental issues. Respondents had an overall positive attitude towards waste-to-energy, but it varied according to the demographic details of residents, such as age, education, and income. Recognition level of the benefits was higher than the concern of associated risks. Multiple linear regression shows that awareness of environmental issues had no impact on public attitude towards waste-to-energy, while public awareness and perceived benefits had notable positive impacts. Perceived risks had a positive correlation with public attitude. In order to promote the development of MSW incinerators, the government should make more publicity efforts. Rural residents, people over 50 years old, and people with low education and low income are the major groups which should be focused on to enhance the public perception. The findings provide a theoretical and practical reference for enhancing the social acceptance of waste-to-energy development.
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