Turning the dead end of consumerism into a roundabout

waste-to-energy

The garbage collectors come early in the morning, before the city awakes. Everything from last night’s dinner scraps to empty milk cartons, newspapers and discarded clothing is gathered, thrown in a lorry and whisked off to the local landfill. No worries. No problems.

Disappearing act 

Or is that really the case?

When garbage is carted off to the local landfill, it doesn’t disappear. Plastic doesn’t decompose. It sits there for decades, centuries, even millennia. Organic waste rots and stinks and releases methane – a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere, and considered 20% more harmful than CO2.

The sheer wastefulness of the whole setup rubs Bjarne Bech the wrong way. 

Introducing the responsible consumer

BWSC’s waste-to-energy power plants use combustion technology to transform garbage into useful energy.
 
Here are some of the advantages:
  • Organic waste no longer is allowed to decompose and release methane – a potent greenhouse gas that is 20% more harmful than CO2
  • Advanced flue gas treatment technology means plastics and other non-organic products are converted without polluting the air
  • Island communities and isolated locations can reduce their dependence on oil imports.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we all recognised that being a consumer means we also take responsibility for properly dealing with our waste products? "

Bjarne Bech, Sales Manager, Biomass and Waste-to-energy Sales


As one of BWSC’s sales managers, he scours the globe, looking for markets where our waste-to-energy (WtE) plants can replace landfills. Using the most advanced combustion technology, BWSC’s WtE power plants can divert waste products from the landfill and transform them into electricity. 

"While landfills are convenient, they don’t solve the inherent problems of our consumer-driven economy," says Bjarne. "Our society uses enormous energy resources to make products and transport them around the globe. The products are only used for a short time, but they are waste for a very long time."

Bech invites us to step back and see the big picture and rethink our consumption model.  

"Wouldn’t it be great if we all recognised that being a consumer means we also take responsibility for properly dealing with our waste products? So instead of just thinking about production, transport, purchase, and consumption, we make sure we follow up with responsible disposal of our products. Instead of sitting in a landfill for ages, your trash becomes fuel that is part of an energy cycle."

Introducing the responsible consumer

The Hooton Bio Power Resource Recovery Centre in the UK is a good example of how BWSC can re-route waste product from the dead-end of landfills.

Upon completion in 2021, the WtE power plant will transform 240,000 tonnes of waste into electricity every year. That’s waste which instead of ending up in a landfill, is processed and used to provide energy for about 50,000 British homes. 

The high incineration temperatures of 900-1000 C, together with advanced flue gas treatment technology, means that the power plant’s waste products are crystalized bottom ash which can be used as construction material, a small amount of water vapour, and a small fraction of flue gas cleaning residues which must be stored carefully. 

According to Bech, a Hooton-sized facility can be the answer in many communities that are struggling to deal with overfilling landfills. For example on some island communities, that are known as tourist destinations, landfills are no longer a viable option since they take up valuable real estate and cause far-reaching damage to air quality. 

Bech doesn’t pretend that WtE is an easy solution to implement. There are a number of logistical and bureaucratic issues that need to be addressed. 

The gate fee, or how much it costs to deliver trash, can’t be set too high. Otherwise, islanders will be tempted to find other ways of disposing of their trash. Such as dumping it into nature. 

Likewise, the price of electricity needs to be affordable for residents and provide a viable alternative to oil imports.  

He notes, however, that BWSC’s project development team can crunch the numbers and do the calculus to make WtE a solid investment. 

"There are a lot of factors that need to be balanced," says Bech. "But in addition to technical know-how of power production, we also have insights in the regulatory framework and financing mechanisms needed to make power plants feasible." 

Bech suggests there’s a growing awareness that we have to rethink our consumer-driven economy. And while manufacturers are always striving to deliver products at the lowest cost possible, consumers are beginning to ask them to explore ways of including waste disposal as part of the price. 

"We can’t continue the linear model of produce, transport, consume, landfill," says Bech. "Our waste-to-energy power plants are an important step in making it possible for consumers to become responsible."

The dirty truth

For centuries, landfills have offered a seemingly easy way to dispose of garbage. But below the surface, problems lurk: 

  • Over the decades, chemicals can leach into groundwater
  • Landfills take up valuable real estate – especially on densely populated island communities
  • A public nuisance due to smell and eyesore
  • Methane emissions
  • Fire hazard

Waste-to-energy
Making waste useful

Environment
Minimising environmental impact