Sustainable Cities™

Copenhagen: Waste-to-Energy-Plants

Copenhagen, Denmark, is no longer using landfills as a general solution to its waste problems. Instead, the city has been trying its best to reduce waste and use that which is produced as a resource that can be recycled or incinerated for energy. This case presents the waste management system of Copenhagen in 2008 and specifically focuses on ‘Waste-to-energy’ plants, which presently produce heat and power for the city.

Kran med affald ved Vestforbrænding, venligst udlånt af Vestforbrænding

Like many other European countries, Denmark has radically changed its waste management strategies in the last 10 to 20 years. Landfills, which used to be the general solution, now only accept only 3% of Copenhagen's total rubbish. As an alternative, 39 % of all material the city collects is incinerated in "waste to energy" plants that generate power for thousands of households and make use of the valuable energy contained within the city's trash.

In 2004, the amount of heat and power generated from waste in Copenhagen was enough for the needs of 70.000 households, producing 210.000 MWH of electical energy and 720.000 MWH of heat. All of this valuable energy was obtained from the city's three municipal waste incinerators: I/S Amagerforbrænding, I/S Vestforbrænding, and Rensningsanlæg Lynetten.

Vestforbrænding, courtesy of Vestforbrænding

In addition to incinerating 39% of collected materials for energy, Copenhagen also recycles 56 % of them according to the motto: less waste, more separation. The system is able to achieve such a high percentage of recycled materials because it is flexible - taking into consideration the different needs and habits of every citizen and business along with their different time schedules. The improvement of Copenhagen's recycling system alone has reduced its CO² emissions by 40.000 tons since the system's initail implementation.

Perhaps most importatntly, the city has been working to promote waste reduction by influencing consumer habits. This may include making products with less packaging more attractive or availabe, encouraging the reuse of products, establishing composting schemes, or organizing other activities that can minimize waste.

"Waste is better utilised through incineration than through landfills but recy­cling is an even better option. Of course, the best option is prevention of waste production altogether, which often requires direct reuse. The less waste, the better - it's as simple as that. "Copenhagen Waste Solution, City of Copenhagen (2008)



Last updated Monday, February 03, 2014