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Still adjusting | The great green swindle

Clear the Air says:

So our former Environment Minister Edward Yau and  his ‘Greentech’ hangers-on for a free Europe jaunt at public expense visited Denmark to learn about their ‘advanced’ waste treatment bonfire.

In fact Denmark is way behind Hong Kong in recycling, percentage wise,  they have just realised their incinerators are causing irreparable CO2 climate damage (let alone the other noxious emissions), they do not have enough waste to burn so have to import it to keep their incinerators running – and our ‘Greentech’ mission went there to learn something, or for  detkolde bord (smorgasbord)?

Read on and be amazed …………………

SEN and green tech mission start visit to Denmark (with photos)

The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, and a green tech mission from Hong Kong started their visit to Denmark in Copenhagen today (April 25, Copenhagen time). While in Copenhagen they will take a look at the city’s advanced waste treatment technology and explore possibilities for co-operation in green business.  The mission first visited Amagerforbrænding, which runs Copenhagen’s largest incineration plant. They toured its recycling station and the incineration plant to learn more about the city’s waste treatment facilities and technology for generating energy from waste.


Still adjusting | The great green swindle

Justin Cremer

April 7, 2012 – 07:37

A proud native of the American state of Iowa, Justin Cremer has been living in Copenhagen since June 2010. In addition to working at the CPH Post, he balances fatherhood, struggling with the Danish language and keeping up with the ever-changing immigration rules.

Just days after Denmark put through its much-heralded energy plan, resulting in plenty of back-slapping among politicians and more than a fair amount of praise in the international press, Eurostat figures revealed that the average Dane produced 673 kilos of garbage in 2010, putting Denmark behind only Cyprus and Luxembourg when it comes to trash.The figures also revealed that a mere 23 percent of Danish household trash is recycled, about half as much as the Germans.

These numbers were not in the least bit surprising. Ever since my first visit to Denmark, I was struck by how hard it was to recycle, particularly plastic. I was so accustomed to recycling my plastic one gallon milk containers (that’s roughly 3.8litres, my European friends) that I found it incredulous that milk here came in cardboard packages destined for the trash. Though, to be fair, I found it even more unbelievable that the said containers only hold one litre of milk, meaning a lifetime of going to the store every second day.

Like most of the outside world, I came here having bought into the notion that Denmark was a green paradise. Why then, was I throwing things in the trash that back home were recycled? “Bare rolig du,” I was told. In Denmark, everything is burnt and the energy is then used to heat homes. It’s a beautiful system, can’t you see that?

Actually, no. A study by the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) last year revealed that Denmark’s carbon dioxide emissions were double what was originally thought and the nation was exceeding the carbon dioxide goals under the Kyoto Protocol. The culprit? That same rubbish incineration programme that had been praised to the heavens.

But, but, but, it’s not the incineration that’s the problem, experts argued. It’s that too much plastic gets burnt – that same plastic that is incredibly inconvenient to recycle.

Being a good, environmentally-conscious world citizen, I tried to do my small part. For months, I had been dutifully separating my plastic and cardboard, placing them in the requisite clear plastic sacks, and storing them in the shed until the infrequent storskrald (big trash) pick-up days.

Only when my wife happened to be outside on pick-up day and struck up a conversation with one of the collectors, did I come to realise that all of that was just burnt anyway. Yes, my plastic that had been rinsed and separated, my cardboard that had been neatly bundled. Burnt. All of it. In incineration plants that, according to DTU’s numbers, produce some 700,000 more tonnes of carbon dioxide than previously thought.

Rather ironically, with the amount of emissions this incorrectly-labelled ‘green’ solution pumps into the atmosphere, there sure are some particular rules about it. Just last week, the collectors refused to take my trash because there was loose kitty litter inside. Gosh, did I feel terrible that I hadn’t put it in an extra unnecessary plastic sack to put within the larger sack so that it all could be burnt and added to the air pollution. My bad, y’all.

Hopefully, though, the attitudes towards incineration and recycling are beginning to change. A year-long pilot programme inAmager revealed last summer that up to 30 percent of the household rubbish currently being burned is recyclable or unfit for burning. Based on that programme, Copenhagen’s technical and environmental department, Teknik- ogMiljøforvaltningen (TMF), announced a new sortable recycling programme that it expects will reduce carbon emissions by 1,400 tonnes per year. The programme was due to begin this month, but a call to TMF last week revealed that it had been pushed back to sometime in the autumn.

Denmark has done an amazing job of presenting itself as an environmental leader. The strategy seems to be that if you dotyour countryside and shorelines with enough wind turbines, you’ll convince the world that you’re ‘green’. Largely, it’s worked. And with the newly-announced plan to wean Denmark off fossil fuels by 2050, the country will continue to be perceived as on the cutting edge of green technology. But when residents can’t conveniently recycle in their homes and instead pile up obscene amounts of trash that, once incinerated, produce an emissions-laden carbon bomb, it gives a whole new meaning to the line so proudly displayed on DSB’s trains: “It’s not a question of green, but how green.” And just how green can a country be when in the year 2012 it still hasn’t fully embraced recycling?


Incinerators: better than landfills, but a recycling loser

Erica Cooperberg

July 8, 2012 – 08:00

Burning rubbish provides energy for households, but also comes with a price: it makes people complacent about their trash disposal

Plans to build a new futuristic incinerator – complete with ski slope – were just too grand for the city

For the five and a half million individuals residing in Denmark, waste is a perpetual problem, but it is not one that is being ignored. However, depending on who you ask, the nation’s chosen disposal method – incineration – is either an ‘environmentally-friendly’ end station, or just a step in the right direction.

While 42 percent of Danish waste is recycled, according to official statistics, the majority, 54 percent, is burned in a process that converts waste into new forms of useful energy. In Denmark’s case, that means that instead of being sent to landfills, rubbish is burned to produce heat and electricity at what are known as waste-to-energy plants.

Amagerforbrænding, Denmark’s second-largest waste company, handles approximately ten percent of the country’s waste. That trash either winds up at one of 12 recycling stations or at its waste-to-energy plant in Amager.

Jonas Nedenskov, an engineer with Amagerforbrænding, explained that the plant incinerates over 400,000 tonnes of waste per year, which is converted into “climate-friendly energy” that supplies 120,000 households with heat in the form of forced hot water and 50,000 households with electricity.

But Amagerforbrænding isn’t just burning waste; recycling is a large part of the company’s environmental efforts, and some 85 percent of the waste received at the recycling stations can be reused.

Amagerforbrænding hopes it can encourage people to recycle more. “Our task is to ensure that the collection and sorting of the many different plastics is as easy as possible,” Nedenskov said. Its latest initiative, to promote plastic recycling, is being carried out in co-operation with the city of Copenhagen.

Although incineration is a more environmentally-friendly process than landfilling, critics say it isn’t as green as its supporters make it out to be.

The process includes the emission of unhealthy toxins into the air, which is a concern to employees, the community directly surrounding the plant and the greater community.

Amagerforbrænding, according to Nedenskov, seeks to minimise the amount of toxins it releases by filtering its emissions to satisfy air quality requirements put out by environment agency Miljøstyrelsen.

But while emissions can be scrubbed, incineration’s other by-product is more difficult to deal with. After trash is burned, the leftover slag, made up mostly of metal, is unusable for anything other than road-building, contended Christian Poll of nature conservation society DN.

Essentially, the incinerators just “transform waste into concentrated material”, Poll said. “Those supporting incineration often forget to tell that story.”

While Poll agreed that incineration is “much better than landfilling, like we used 20 years ago”, Denmark should instead encourage people first and foremost to reduce the amount of waste they producereuse what they can, and then to recycle as much of the rest as possible.

A dispute between Amagerforbrænding and CONCITO, an environmental policy think-tank, surrounds this issue – Amagerforbrænding wishes to build a new incineration facility, while CONCITO argues that it is not entirely necessary.

While it does not support the current building proposals for the facility, CONCITO does back the facility’s overall expansion.

“We want the incinerator to be small so there’s room to make the change to recycling,” Poll said. “If it has a smaller capacity, there will be real incentives to generate less waste for incineration.”

Copenhagen’s deputy mayor for technical and environmental affairs, Ayfer Baykal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), said a compromise needs to be reached on the size of any new incinerators built in Amager. The city refused to back a loan guarantee to build two new furnaces, each capable of handling 35 tonnes of waste per hour.

“We don’t need the incinerators to be so large, because the amount of trash generated in Copenhagen is expected to fall by 20 percent in the coming years,” Baykal told Politiken newspaper.

Baykal declined to say what compromises the city hopes to make, but Mogens Lømborg of Amagerforbrænding told Politiken that the larger ovens would be more cost-effective in the long-run.

Currently, CONCITO is waiting to hear back from the board of Amagerforbrænding with what it hopes will be plans to include more recycling facilities.

Looking towards the future, Poll said there was reason to expect Copenhagen would continue to recycle more and incinerate less. Calling the migration from landfilling to incineration a “good step”, he said continued progress would take effort. “Everything is possible; you just have to want it.”

Not enough rubbish to go around

Jennifer Buley

July 22, 2011 – 12:00

Councils scramble for foreign rubbish to fuel nation’s waste-to-energy incinerators

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In Denmark, one man’s waste is another man’s warmth – and there isn’t enough of it to go around.

Denmark leads most EU countries in municipal waste incineration for energy and heating. The country’s state-of-the-art incineration plants convert burnable household waste into the energy that heats up people’s homes, while filtering out a high percentage of the poisons and preventing 95 percent of all waste from ending up in a landfill.

Because of the popularity of this model, however, a number of communities are having trouble getting their hands on enough rubbish to feed the furnaces – and that is pressing more and more councils to import burnable foreign waste.

Three months ago, Nykøbing Falster in southern Zealand became the first Danish council to begin importing German garbage for incineration as it was not getting sufficient burnable rubbish from Zealand itself to run its incinerators efficiently.

The problem is even bigger in more rural areas, including much of Jutland, where concentrations of people are not large enough to produce enough waste to run the incineration plants. Several Jutland plants therefore plan to begin importing rubbish from Great Britain to make up for chronic garbage shortages.

Yet despite the shortage of homegrown burnable waste, thirteen Jutland councils are now weighing the possibility of building a new mega-sized incineration plant in Kjellerup, between Viborg and Silkeborg.

To run the new waste-to-energy plant thousands of truckloads of foreign rubbish may have to be imported from Germany and Great Britain. That has led critics to question the intelligence of the project.

“What’s about to happen is socio-economically stupid,” Palle Mang, managing director for Nomi, a waste management company in Holstebro, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “For a start, there’s not enough rubbish to ensure a sufficient supply for the incineration plants that already exist. If the plant in Kjellerup is built, we will come up short another 190,000 tonnes [of rubbish].”

Nomi is currently sourcing 4,000 tonnes of rubbish each month from outside the council just to keep its smaller incineration facility running.

But Flemming Christensen, managing director of the council-owned waste management company behind the Kjellerup project, says that is just fine.

“I don’t see any problem with importing rubbish. It’s a really good idea to use rubbish for fuel. In that way we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help our neighbouring countries at the same time,” he said.

But the quality of the rubbish that is imported – as well as the distance and means by which it travels to get to the incinerator – will also have a big impact on whether carbon dioxide emissions are reduced or raised.

A recent study from the Technical University of Denmark revealed that high plastic levels in Danish household waste are the culprit for much higher carbon dioxide emissions from incineration practices than previously estimated.

The 13 councils are scheduled to meet about the proposed mega-incinerator project on September 1

Denmark’s carbon bomb

Jennifer Buley

April 8, 2011 – 09:00

Due to high levels of plastic incineration, carbon dioxide emissions are double the old estimate

A new study from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) indicates that Denmark’s carbon dioxide emissions are double the previous calculation and have probably been so for years.

Accordingly, Denmark is exceeding its carbon dioxide goals under the Kyoto Protocol.

Widespread municipal rubbish incineration – the same waste-to-energy system that has been touted internationally as a model for clean energy resourcefulness – is the main culprit.

The incineration itself is not necessarily the problem. It is just that there is too much plastic in our trash, say experts.

The new findings come from a current study on the composition of the nation’s household rubbish, by DTU associate professor Thomas Astrup. He found that the actual amount of ‘fossil content’ – plastics, in other words – in rubbish that is being incinerated is twice what authorities were estimating.

Although the study’s final results will not be ready until summer, the preliminary data was strong enough to convince the National Environmental Research Institute (DMU) to begin revising its annual report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which monitors whether countries are meeting their Kyoto Protocol commitments.

Based on the new carbon dioxide calculations from the DTU, Denmark is not.

“Our preliminary research shows that our emissions are in the range of 32.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide per gigajoule – which is twice as much as the 17.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide per gigajoule we used to think we were putting out from incinerators,” Astrup told science website

Some 700,000 tons more carbon dioxide escape into the atmosphere every year than previously thought, according to his computer models.

Denmark burns approximately half of all its household rubbish at incinerator plants that convert rubbish into energy for residential electricity and heat. Widespread municipal rubbish incineration means that just five percent of Danish rubbish gets buried in landfills. But it also means that we emit extra carbon dioxide.

“Carbon dioxide emissions were probably higher in previous years also. We just didn’t know,” Astrup told The Copenhagen Post.

According to a DMU report from 2010 – before the new data – the average Dane is responsible for releasing two and a half times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the average world citizen. That number could be much higher when new calculations are taken into account.

Double the plastic in household rubbish means double the carbon dioxide emissions, when that rubbish gets incinerated.

“In Denmark we often sort less and incinerate more than other countries,” Astrup said. “But it makes sense, because we have a very developed district heating system that is very efficient at turning it into energy. This makes Denmark somewhat different from most other countries.”

There is a misconception that state-of-the-art incineration plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But that is not the case. They filter out dioxins and other poisons that might otherwise escape into the air, and if they are highly efficient, as in Denmark, they provide more energy from less rubbish.

The key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the rubbish that is burned is making sure that there is less fossil content in it.

“The carbon dioxide coming from waste incinerators depends upon the waste composition and not the technology or efficiency of the plant,” said Astrup.

Separating and recycling more plastics from household rubbish would seem to be the answer, but Astrup warns that is not necessarily the ‘greenest’ solution:
“Burning the plastic in highly efficient Danish incinerators generates energy that we then do not need to produce at power plants using coal and gas. This saves carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere.”

“If the plastic can be sorted out in clean fractions and recycled properly to make new plastic, then it’s a good idea. But if it’s not clean, it can only be recycled into secondary materials, which saves less new plastic and less carbon dioxide emissions. Then it is better to incinerate the plastic in Denmark at high efficiency,” he added.

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