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Nordic waste revolution spreads around the globe

Ever more countries are now following the lead of the Nordic countries and switching to a greener and more efficient waste disposal.

ÅF is involved in the building of facilities that will result in a more sustainable society. 

“It feels very important and motivating to be part of this progress”, says Peter Kling, Head of WtE & Bioenergy Consulting at ÅF.

Sweden has long since been a pioneer in this field. Since the 1970s, when the district heating network was expanded, this country has been recycling energy, and in particular district heating, from rubbish. Today, waste is one of the most important domestic fuels in Sweden. Waste power plants in the Nordic countries have an annual production of 50 - 100% of all district heating needs depending on location. These power plants are also capable of producing up to 30% of the annual electricity requirement in certain towns.

“Energy recovery is both cheaper and more sustainable than using fossil fuels such as coal or peat. Some of the waste management in exporting countries is also resolved in an environmentally friendly manner”, says Peter Kling at ÅF.

Waste disposal plants of the type used in northern Europe are now raising a lot of interest throughout the world. These are facilities that are both energy efficient and sustainable, and which combine mechanical technology with high-tech processes. This is something the Nordic engineers have become experts in.

“Amongst other things, ÅF in Finland has been building 80 per cent of all new plants in Finland in the latest ten years, ten of them in total. Now the ball is rolling and we have taken part in new ecological cycle projects for waste in the Nordic countries, at the same time building all the waste power plants in the Baltic; one in Estonia and three in Lithuania. There is also a good deal of interest in Eastern Europe, Great Britain and South-East Asia”, Peter Kling says.

One base unit, that is a modern thermal power plant that handles 150,000 tonnes of waste annually, produces 90,000 MWh of electricity and 310,000 MWh of heating annually. That covers the electricity and heating needs of over 30,000 households.

The environmental demands put on these plants are hard. They must produce very low emissions and have an efficient energy recovery. Of the waste going to energy recovery, 80 per cent becomes district heating and electricity, and 20 per cent slag and flue-gas cleaning products

In South-East Asia, there is a great deal of potential when it comes to reducing global environmental problems with modern waste disposal facilities for materials and energy recovery. With sustainable source sorting and energy recovery, the amount of plastic entering into the oceans could also be reduced. Indonesia, one of the countries that disposes most plastic waste into the sea, is one example. 

“ÅF has been active in Indonesia with various power plant projects since the beginning of the 1990s and it would be very interesting to also take part in the building of modern waste plants there”, says Kling.

FACTS: According to calculations in the EU Commission’s Circular Economy Package, which was presented in December 2015, the full-scale development of a circular economy and recycling in the EU could entail savings of 600 billion euros for trade and industry. Parallel to this, the EU’s costs for greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 2–4 per cent.

Source: Green Advisor Report 2016