Oslo, Norway is a city of 1.4 million people that finds itself in the enviable position of having to import garbage. In fact half of Oslo’s residents need a steady supply of garbage in order to power appliances and heat their homes. Pal Mikkelsen, head of Oslo’s Waste-to-Energy Agency, sites “400 plants currently operating in the region due to construction of these facilities over the past several decades.”
The following diagram show a typical garbage burning plant with outputs of electricity, landfill, water vapor and “cleaned” flue gasses:
Overcapacity in Northern Europe
This huge capacity for garbage burning vastly outpaces local waste production. Northern Europe produces about 150 million tons of burnable trash a year but their installed capacity for incineration is 700 million tons.
In general these facilities burn waste to produce heat which boils water generating steam to drive electric turbines. The systems are from 15 to 30% efficient but cogeneration or recycling waste heat provides homes with hot water and recycled flue gas fumes for biogas production powering Oslo’s Metro bus system; cogeneration increases efficiency to between 75% and 100%.
Governments Involved in Solving Problem
Oslo has begun importing garbage from England, Ireland and Sweden and is studying the efficacy of importing garbage from the US. While Northern Europeans are considered fastidious in their handling of garbage Americans are not.
Regulators are getting into the game by charging for garbage disposal thus making it cheaper for many to send their garbage to Oslo. Environmentalists look at this differently; anything that encourages the use of garbage or discourages its reduction is a problem, as they see it.
The Largest Garbage Dumps in the World:
Many of these plants receive 10,000 to 20,000 tons of new garbage a day and could be suitable locations for this type of plant:
- Bordo Poniente Landfill, Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch
- Fresh Kills Landfill, New York City (closed in 2001)
- Lago Dump, Nigeria (500 container ships dump elecronic waste each month)
- Apex Regional Landfill, Las Vegas, Nevada (Will close when it has recieved 1 billion tons of garbage)
- Sudokwon Landfill, South Korea (adds 6.3 million tons of garbage per year)
- Puente Hills Landfill, Los Angeles, California (Holds 3.7 million tons on 700 acres)