Clear The Air Energy Blog Rotating Header Image

February, 2016:

European Commission keeps wasting energy on “waste-to-energy”

In December 2015, the European Commission launched the Circular Economy Package, which aims to bring a major shift in waste management, product and process design policies and consumption patterns that minimize the landfill and incineration of waste. Less than two months after, on Thursday February 4, the European Commission presented the Roadmap for the Communication on Waste to Energy, which sets the scope and terms for the Communication on waste-to-energy that will be published later on in 2016. As we read through it, this roadmap is a worrying step on four counts.

Firstly, the European Commission refers in this roadmap to non-recyclable waste as the perfect feed for an incinerator. However, no definition of non-recyclable waste can be found in the Waste Framework Directive or in the new proposal. The Commission mixes up non-recyclable waste with mixed waste, and while it’s true that mixed waste can’t be easily recycled, these are two different things.

While mixed waste is a problem of separate collection; non-recyclable waste is mostly a problem of product design. If properly separated, there’s no non-recyclable waste only non-recyclable materials and the solution to them isn’t burning, but re-design to make them fit into the circular economy.

Secondly, this road-map especially worrying because it ignores the role of civil society and local governments, as the Commission aims at consulting only Member States’ regulators, “waste-to-energy” plant operators, RDF producers, the recycling industry and other waste burning industries (chiefly cement kilns). Neither municipalities, nor NGOs are included in the list, despite the fact that waste incineration remains highly contested from NGOs to local neighbourhood associations and resident groups, citing a wide range of concerns from health and environmental issues to financial problems.

Moreover, it is worrying because it doesn’t include a clear roadmap on how to tackle existing over-capacities and, actually pushes for more inflexible facilities requiring long-time investment, such as district heating. It ignores that in a circular economy, disposal facilities should instead be flexible, allowing waste managers to adapt progressively to higher recycling rates and lower levels of waste production. Linking houses’ heating system to residual waste generation through very expensive long-term facilities isn’t the best incentive to promote reduction, reuse and recycling

Finally, granting so called “waste-to-energy” a role of within the Energy Union, is everything but doing a favour for the climate, since “waste-to-energy” is one of the most polluting, expensive, and inefficient forms of energy production available today. Burning waste will not contribute to secure energy supply, nor to the promotion of clean renewable energy to secure the reduction of our carbon footprint and the mitigation of climate change

Unfortunately this isn’t a systemic change, just more of the same.


Download (PDF, 1.72MB)

CTA Letter to EPD on Landfill Gas Levels in Hong Kong

From: EPD
Sent: 26 February, 2016
Subject: Query on current levels of Landfill Gas in Hong Kong

Dear Mr. Middleton,

Thank you again for your email dated 12 Jan 2016 regarding the use of LFG.

You may well understand that LFG is generated as a result of physical, chemical and microbial processes that undergo within the waste cells of the landfill. The processes and hence the generation rate would vary from time to time according to different waste intake history, environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, extent of leachate circulation), and configurations of the landfill site (e.g. landfill depth and thickness of cover material), etc. It is noted that the LFG generation at local landfills has been relatively steady over the past few years. In any case, we have been closely monitoring the management of the landfills to ensure landfill operations are in accordance with stringent environmental standards.

As you have already noted that it is a government policy to encourage utilization of LFG recovered from the landfill sites. Apart from on-site utilization at all three strategic landfills, there have been arrangements for off-site utilization at NENT and SENT landfills. In order to make best use of the LFG recovered, EPD has been working closely with the landfill contractor of WENT Landfill in exploring and identifying various practicable beneficial use of surplus LFG recovered at the landfill site. As part of our on-going effort, we have taken the liberty to pass on the information of overseas experience in your email to the contractor for reference/consideration.

May I thank you again for your interest in the Hong Kong environment, which is very much appreciated and important for the continual enhancement of our local environment.

H. S. Chan
for the Director of Environmental Protection Department


From: CTA
Sent: 12th January, 2016
Subject: Query on current levels of Landfill Gas in Hong Kong

Dear Gary

Thanks for your reply

In 2008 the LFG at the 3 sites collected was as follows: 26,600 m3 per hour

Obviously as the landfills get older and larger the LFG would normally increase but I note that the 2014 rate is 12.400/6,450/7,185 = 26,035 m3 per hour
which is lower than 2008, of which you state approx 80% (20,828 m3 per hour) would be beneficially used and the remainder (5,200 m3 per hour/ 124,800 m3 per day / 45,552,000 m3 per year)
is flared off.

That seems an awful lot of wasted methane and relevant pollution caused by the flaring. I understand methane is 21 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 but surely some better use
could be made of the gas ?

For example I note that companies like SITA promote liquid biomethane from landfill gas in UK and Europe – why not here too ?

Kind regards,
James Middleton


Chinese waste-to-energy plant will be a mile in circumference


On the mountainous outskirts of Shenzhen, a fast-growing megacity in China, the largest waste-to-energy plant in the world is on the horizon.

You can bet that this disk-shaped trash-burning plant isn’t going to do any wonders for China’s notoriously bad air quality. It’s projected to burn 5,500 tons of trash per day — one-third of the waste Shenzhen produces. But the alternative isn’t very pretty, either. Fast Company reports:

In China, most waste currently goes to landfills or illegal dumps — piles of trash so huge that they can actually be dangerous, like the landfill in Shenzhen that collapsed in December and killed dozens of people nearby. It’s a space problem, but also a climate problem, because landfills emit potent greenhouse gases as garbage rots away.

Incinerating trash also pollutes, but a state-of-the-art plant like the one planned for Shenzhen can dramatically reduce pollution compared to a city dump. “Burning waste naturally creates pollutants, mainly carbon dioxide — something in the region of one metric ton of CO2 per metric ton of waste,” says [architect Chris] Hardie. “This does not sound great for sure, but when you compare it to putting the waste to landfill, one metric ton of waste will ultimately produce somewhere in the region of 60 cubic meters of methane as it decomposes — and this has more than twice the negative effect on global warming.”

The Chinese government plans to build 300 waste-to-energy plants in the next three years to combat the country’s growing waste problem.

This particular incinerator-to-be is designed by the Danes. As you might expect from those same folks who are shaming the rest of the world in wind power, the Shenzhen plant has a green twist.

The design features a pedestrian path that winds along its one-mile circumference and a roof covered in 44,000 square meters of solar panels.

We’re hoping that the location is far enough from civilization to avoid displacing Shenzhen’s citizens. (After all, this is coming from the same country that just decided to displace 9,000 people to build a huge, alien-detecting telescope.)

When the plant opens in 2020, Shenzhen’s citizens will be among the few people in the world who could reasonably say, “Hey, wanna take a lap around the incinerator?” And according to the image below, those visitors are going to have a grand time admiring the wonder that is incineration.

Here’s what the inside of the plant may look like. SHL Architects

Here’s what the inside of the plant may look like. SHL Architects

Chinese firm plans €1bn Finnish biorefinery

Will produce 200,000 t/y second generation biofuel

CHINESE bioenergy company Sunshine Kaidi New Energy Group has announced plans to build a €1bn (US$1.1bn) wood-based biorefinery in Kemi, Finland.

The biorefinery will produce 200,000 t/y of second-generation biofuels, 75% of which will be biodiesel and the remainder biogasoline. The biorefinery will be the largest single investment ever made by a Chinese company in Finland, and Kaidi has established a Finnish subsidiary to oversee the project.

The biorefinery will be the first of its kind in the world, while the design will be based on Kaidi’s pilot plant in Wuhan, China. The feedstock for the plant will be sustainably-sourced wood, forestry industry waste and bark. Kaidi says it will need around 2m m3/y of wood, which will be sourced from within a 200 km radius of Kemi. The refinery will use plasma gasification to convert the organic matter into syngas, followed by a cleanup step to remove impurities. The refined syngas will then be subject to the Fischer-Tropsch process to make liquid hydrocarbons. The final products will be suitable for use as drop-in fuels or for blending with petrochemical fuels.

Construction on the site is expected to begin in 2017, with the plant beginning operations in 2019. The plant will employ around 150 permanent staff, with several hundred extra jobs created in wood harvesting, transportation and machinery manufacture. Finland’s forestry industry has suffered in recent years due to the downturn in paper demand, so this is likely to be a welcome boost.

Kaidi chairman and CEO Cheng Yilong said that Finland’s experience in the forestry industry and “positive political climate” had been big incentives to invest in the country.

“Finland is the most interesting investment target in terms of biofuels in the Northern Hemisphere. Finland’s bioeconomy policies are particularly advanced and ambitious, it has large biomass resources and many interesting co-operation partners,” said Cheng.