Tag Archives: Sweden

Top 4 Waste to Energy Facilities

Garbage is trashy, we get it. But not anymore.

Waste-to-energy is an innovative way to think about waste management and energy diversification. Ranjith Annepu, founder of the nonprofit ‘be Waste Wise,’ commented on how public perception of this energy source could be altered.

“I think change comes with new generations and increased availability of information and public dialogue,” Annepu said.

The following waste-to-energy facilities generate energy from municipal solid waste, the kind we throw away in our garbage cans every day. Not only are these power plants utilizing this resource, they’re doing it in style.


Photo by David Castor
  1. Sysav South Scania waste-to-energy facility in Malmö, Sweden

This waste-to-energy plant is the most energy efficient plant in Sweden and one of the most carbon-friendly plants in Europe.

The plant creates electricity and heat with waste from 500,000 citizens, and it’s used to sort, store, and recycle waste. The facility processes household, commercial, and hazardous wastes.


Visulalization of the future Waste-to-energy facility by Beauty & the Bit and Ginsun Design
  1. Waste-to-energy facility in Shenzhen, China

China plans to build the world’s largest waste-to-energy plant in the world, with construction set to end in 2020.

The facility will turn a third of Shenzhen’s trash into energy, processing 5,000 tons a day. The plant hopes to combat the large landfills and illegal dumps building up in the area.

The plant’s best feature is on-site renewable energy generation. Two-thirds of the facilities large rooftop will be covered in photovoltaic solar panels.

The facility will also feature a landscaped park and ramped walkway. The walkway offers visitors a look at the inside of the facility and access to a rooftop viewing platform.



  1. Spittelau Incineration Plant

Built in 1971, a fire ironically destroyed major sections of the plant in 1987. When it was rebuilt, the new Spittelau was designed by environmentalist and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser as a work of art.

The plant now stands as a Viennese landmark, featuring an abstractly painted building, golden ball on its chimney, and green roof. By providing district heating and electricity to Vienna, the plant heats more than 60,000 households a year.

Photo by Amager Resource Center
  1. Waste-to-energy facility in Copenhagen, Denmark

If you ever take a trip to Copenhagen in the winter months, make sure to go skiing: on top of this waste-to-energy facility.

Due to finish construction in 2017, skiers at this site will be skiing on the roof of the energy plant. And that’s not all the facility features.

For every ton of CO2 burned, the power plant will emit a giant ring of steam into the sky. The smoke rings are a completely non-toxic representation of the toxic CO2 it emits.

This serves as a visible reminder of the plant’s environmental footprint and a tangible measurement of citizens’ waste habits. As citizens become more conscious of their waste habits and recycle, they will see less rings.


FAQ: Energizing Waste

How much do we really waste?

In 2013, Americans produced about 254 million tons of municipal solid waste (aka garbage), and recycled about 34.3% of that. That is about 4.4 pounds of garbage per person, per day.

Overall, municipal solid waste is over 60% organic. After recyclables are sorted out of the waste, what is left usually rots in landfills.


Photo: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Is this a new thing?

The US began burning waste in 1885 and by the mid-20th century, hundreds of incinerators were built to burn waste.

In 1970, the Clean Air Act put new regulations on incinerators, which had been polluting air and water sources.

Still, the practice of burning solid waste grew in the 1980s with more than 15% of waste being burnt in the early 1990s. In the late 1990s, more regulation was put on incinerators to control for mercury and dioxin emissions, causing the shutdown of many incinerators.

How widespread is incinerating waste for electricity?

 In 2013, 86 facilities in the US burned municipal solid waste for energy recovery. These facilities processed over 28 million tons of garbage to produce 2,720 megawatts of power per year. That is about 12% of the total municipal solid waste in the US.

“Burning waste to create energy should be more widespread,” said Nina Luker, a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Trash overflow can be controlled without to many harmful effects, and it seems to be the best option for what to do with our garbage.”

Is there a downside?

Burning waste creates ash, which will eventually go into landfills, and could potentially cause serious environmental problems. The ash is about 5-15% weight and volume of the original waste, so more could be stored. However, if the ash escapes, it would be very bad for air and water quality all around the landfill.


Photo: David Clow

Is incinerating solid waste the only way to get energy from trash?

No! Landfills are the third-larges source of human-created methane in the United States. This methane is a very harmful green house gas, but is now being collected and used for energy. It can be used in internal combustion engines, turbines, micro turbines and fuel cells to create both electricity and thermal energy.

Is electricity generation from waste used internationally?

Yes. In fact, Sweden is one of the world’s biggest success stories, heating 950,000 homes with trash. The Swedes recycle 47% of their waste, use 52% to generate heat, and less than 1% of their garbage ends up in landfills. They have begun to import trash to continue meeting the heating plants’ needs. The Swedish municipal association estimates that 1 ton of imported garbage saves about 1,100 pounds of methane from decomposing in landfills.

“I think the Swedes’ method of recycling and energy creation is a step in the right direction,” said Natalie Briggs, a first year at UNC-CH. “Other contries should soon follow to ensure better energy conservation.”


Photo: Elliott Brown