What happens when you’re a small country—like Sweden—and you want to generate power by converting waste? You have to look beyond your own borders for garbage.
Sweden, population 9.5 million, is doing just that in order to feed an ambitious waste-to-energy program.
Statistics show that each person in Sweden produces about a half ton of household waste every year. Only about 4% of this waste ends up in landfills, the rest already put to use producing energy.
By way of comparison, it makes the US—where half of all garbage ends up in landfills—look rather inefficient.
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Sweden burns garbage to generate an impressive 20% of its heating needs through a system that distributes heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings.
Every year, just over two million tons of household waste—and a similar volume of industrial waste--is treated in Sweden’s waste-to-energy plants. Waste incineration provides heat to about 810,000 homes and electricity to 250,000 homes.
It’s so efficient, in fact, that’s there’s not enough waste to go around.
According to the country’s Environmental Protection Agency, Sweden needs more trash to feed its energy habit, and has already begun important garbage from its neighbors. For starters, Sweden has so far imported over 881,000 tons of trash from Norway.
Soon there should be more garbage available for Sweden, as the European Union seeks to reduce the amount of rubbish dumped in landfills—a figure that sits at about 150 million tons annually.
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Senior Swedish EPA advisor Catarina Ostlund told reporters that while Sweden has more capacity for waste-to-energy than it does actual waste, Norway may not be the ideal partner a trash import-export scheme because it is in turn importing rubbish itself. Instead, it’s newer EU members that Sweden should be eyeing.
“I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries. They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste."
Other European countries such as Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are following Sweden’s example with new waste-to-energy initiatives.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com