Why import residual waste
closing the loop through relocation of waste
Waste generation is increasing rapidly and is having a significant effect on the environment. But waste isn’t necessarily bad – on the contrary – when handled in an environmentally sound way it’s a valuable resource. Today, local waste management strategies determine whether waste ends up being good or bad. Strategies based on the centuries old linear “take-make-consume-dispose” economic model, such as landfills, are still in play in many parts of the world, but need to be discarded in favour of sustainable waste practices that are adapted to the circular economy, such as incineration in waste-to-energy plants that enable full recovery of resources from waste.
the circular economy
The circular “take-make-consume-reuse-recycle-recover” economy implies that we recover the materials and energy from discarded products. When a product reaches the end of its life, materials and energy are kept within the economy, so that they can be used again and again, thereby creating further value.
waste-to-energy vs. landfills
When waste is buried in landfills, toxins leach into our soil and groundwater and become environmental hazards for years. Dozens of toxic gases are released, the most serious being methane – a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Through incineration in our owners waste-to-energy plants, e.g. CPH plants (combined heat and power), waste is transformed into valuable resources. After recyclable content has been removed, waste is placed in incinerators that produce heat and electricity. Surplus heat from the process is used in district heating networks to heat or cool homes and commercial properties. This way, resources are brought back into the economy after the end life of a product.
CPH plants reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere substantially compared to landfilling. The savings are estimated to be about 1 ton of greenhouse gases saved per ton of waste incinerated. By sourcing our electricity and heat from CPH plants we become less reliant on fossil fuels, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions further.
By choosing to buy heat and electricity from CPH plants consumers and businesses alike contribute to a more sustainable society.
closing the loop
So why are unsustainable waste management practices still in use? Today, the incineration capacity for waste is unevenly spread in the world. Also, few countries have an infrastructure for district heating or cooling, which is necessary for maximum energy recovery.
Sweden, which is at the forefront when it comes to dealing with waste in an effective, environmentally sound way, has the highest per capita incineration capacity (591 kg per capita). Half of Sweden’s homes and commercial properties are heated through an extensive network of district heating plants; still, waste only constitutes around 20% of the fuel used by the plants.
To prevent disposal of waste in landfills and other unsustainable waste management practices, and to make out most use of the waste-to-energy capacity available, cross border shipments of waste are necessary – and stimulate our transition towards a circular economy.