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Trash to cash: Norway leads the way in turning waste into energy

June 14, 2013

Trash to cash: Norway leads the way in turning waste into energy

For a country blessed with bountiful oil supplies, it may appear incongruous. But Norway is importing as much rubbish as it can get its hands on in an effort to generate more energy by burning waste in vast incinerators.

The Eurotrash business may sound like an unpromising enterprise, but it’s one that is increasingly profitable. The UK paid to send 45,000 tons of household waste from Bristol and Leeds to Norway between October 2012 and April this year. “Waste has become a commodity,” says Pal Spillum, head of waste recovery at the Climate and Pollution Agency in Norway. “There is a big European market for this, so much so that the Norwegians are accepting rubbish from other countries to feed the incinerator.”

Norway is not alone. Waste to energy has become a preferred method of rubbish disposal in the EU, and there are now 420 plants in Europe equipped to provide heat and electricity to more than 20 million people. Germany ranks top in terms of importing rubbish, ahead of Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. But it’s Norway that boasts the largest share of waste to energy in district heat production, according to Danish government-funded State of Green.

There are worries that burning rubbish may discourage recycling. Julian Kirby, of Friends of the Earth, says: “Waste for energy isn’t as green as it’s made out to be. We estimate that 80% of what’s in the average waste stream is easily recyclable.” Kirby argues that the incineration system creates confusion: “If you think your waste being burned is a good thing then you are more inclined to just chuck things away rather than recycling them.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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