What use are waste statistics?

The online business blogger Zerohedge recently published a post entitled ‘The Danes Are Europe’s Biggest Wasters’. This presented Eurostat data from 2016 showing that Danish per person waste generation was 777 tonnes, considerably ahead of Germany (623 tonnes per person) or Sweden (a mere 443 tonnes).

What’s going on here? Is Denmark really Europe’s biggest waster? An argument can perhaps be made that runs along these lines: Denmark has an extremely sophisticated waste management system and a high level of recycling. People are therefore relaxed about generating waste, as they know it will be treated properly rather than being dumped. Therefore, a high level of generation doesn’t matter, is to be expected and is even a good sign!

I’m not sure how plausible I find that argument. In any case, it falls down when looking at generation across Europe. Neither Sweden nor Germany are backward when it comes to waste treatment, as, as seen above, they have considerably lower generation levels. Do these people not realise how much more they could be wasting?!

The simpler answer to the Danish question is of course that the Eurostat data is not yet at a point where it can be considered comparable. Sadly, this is true when comparing between countries and also over time for a single country. I looked at some regional Eurostat data over time:

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The first thing to note is that Danish waste generation has been considerably higher than in Finland or Sweden for the past two decades. It grew sharply until 2008, since when it has levelled off. The same pattern, though far less pronounced, can be seen in Finland and Sweden.

You will have already spotted the data for Norway, which is all over the place. Here’s a clue I think. Norway reported a per person level of waste generation similar to Denmark’s until the year 2001, when it dropped sharply to 361 tonnes from 613 tonnes a year earlier. That can only be explained by a change in reporting methodology; a change which Denmark it would seem has never made. From 2001 to 2015, Norway is broadly in line with its nearest neighbours.

Curiously, the Norwegian figure for 2016 is back again at ‘Danish’ levels. Again, such a rise compared with the previous year cannot plausibly represent reality, but rather a change in methodology or reporting completeness. It will be interesting to see if this renewed higher figure is present when the 2017 data is published.

So I doubt that Denmark is really such a big waster; it’s far more likely that they fill in the figures differently. As do, on occasion, Norway. Plenty of other anomalies can be spotted across the Eurostat data, and this has great implications for anyone trying to use it for their strategic planning.

For much of Europe, reported waste treatment figures are identical to reported generation figures. Leaving aside whether that is in itself wholly plausible, we can delve a little deeper into the waste treatment data. This shows that Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway share very similar characteristics for waste treatment. Landfill is barely used, while 50-56% of waste is incinerated. Almost all the remainder is recycled in some way. So in this respect, none of these countries is doing anything radically different from its neighbours.

Denmark and Norway – the two outlier countries in 2016 – are however notable for relatively large per person treatment figures for WtE incineration and in particular recycling. The Danish figure for recycling in 2016 was 371 tonnes per person, 72% higher than the 216 tonnes reported by Sweden!

To return to Norway, the sharp drop in 2001 was due to a fall in the level of landfill, from 336 tonnes per person in 2000, to 92 tonnes in 2001. Assuming there was, in fact, no ‘real world’ sharp fall in generation, what happened to this waste which was formerly landfilled? The Eurostat data shows a modest rise for WtE incineration and a fall for recycling. Either a sizeable proportion of Norway’s waste fell out of the figures in 2001, or there was a serious overcount prior to 2001. Tentatively, I’d say the latter, given the comparison with Sweden and Finland. Reported treatment figures are inconsistent, and these get reported as generation, since one is assumed to equal the other.

In contrast, and finally, I promise, the high Norwegian figure in 2016 was due to an 83% rise in WtE incineration and a 60% rise in recycling, all in one year. Once again, it doesn’t seem terribly likely from a waste generation (or indeed treatment) point of view.

Business planners should be aware of these issues. I’ve singled out Eurostat here, but the rest of the world is worse; the attempted comprehensiveness of European statistics simply makes it easier to spot the problems. The data is far from worthless, but great care needs to be taken when comparing between countries and across time. At AcuComm we make little direct use of these statistics, preferring to rely on our own data which shows actual levels of investment across the waste sector, and in a more timely manner too.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Sri Lanka Biofuel & Biomass Plants

Development of biomass pellet and power plants

Biomass Supplies, a subsidiary of Biomass Ventures, has revealed that the supply chain for 1 million tonnes of wood each year has been secured for conversion into pellets. These will be used for domestic power production and for export to Japan.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Sri Lanka Biofuel & Biomass Plants

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Spain Recycling Centre

Construction of a recycling point for household waste

The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning for Andalucia has awarded €269,126 to go towards the expansion of the municipal solid waste collection point in Montilla.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Spain Recycling Centre

#Editor’sPick – AD & WtE Facilities

Germany – AD Plant

Construction of an organic waste Kompogas plant

Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) is to construct a plug-flow anaerobic digester with gas conditioning at a composting plant owned by Entsorgungswirtschaft Soest.

The facility, located in Anröchte, will process 15,000 tonnes of organic waste annually, producing biogas which will be fed into two cogeneration plants. The composting unit will use any heat produced, while the 3.5 GWh of electricity generated will be enough to supply 1,100 households.

Construction is due to begin in May 2019.

See the latest from this project.

Poland – WtE Facility

Construction of a WtE facility

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will be providing funding for a new waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Olsztyn.

Expected to cost around PLN 1.65 billion, the facility will incinerate refuse-derived fuel (RDF) to generate 1,350.7 TJ of energy each year. Hazardous waste produced as a result of the incineration process (fly ash etc.) will be processed at a plant on-site and transferred to a separate waste management facility.

Find out more from this project.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Italy AD/Biogas Plant

Construction of an anaerobic digestion/biogas plant

A2A Ciclo Idrico recently commissioned a new anaerobic digestion/biogas-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plant, with an electrical capacity of 330 kW.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Italy AD/Biogas Plant

Weekly Projects Update – 35 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$3,057m

In the week ending 1st June 2018, AcuComm added 11 new projects and updated 24 in our database. These have a combined estimated value of US$3,057 million.

This has brought the total number of active projects to 5,075 and adds up to a total estimated value of US$346.9 million.

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 New Project | Updated Project | Full Access Project

Continue reading Weekly Projects Update – 35 new/updated projects, worth an estimated US$3,057m

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – China WtE Facility

Construction of a 25 MW WtE facility

Earlier this month, it was revealed that China Everbright International had secured a contract to undertake the Ji’an Waste-to-Energy Project.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – China WtE Facility

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Thailand Biomass Plant

Construction of a 9.9 MW biomass plant

Sakol Energy (SKE) is to invest around THB 789.84 million in a biomass power plant project in Phrae Province. 8 MW of the 9.9 MW the plant will produce will be sold to the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) as they aim to use more renewable energy resources.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Thailand Biomass Plant

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Nigeria Recycling Facility

Development of an e-waste recycling facility

Operations have begun at Hinckley Recycling’s e-waste recycling facility in Ojota, Lagos. The government approved project aims to confront the problem of informal recycling of electronics by processing up to 20,000 tonnes of waste each year.

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Global Waste Investment Fact File: South Korea

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AcuComm’s Chief Data Analyst, Andy Crofts, gives us a round-up of this week’s chosen country focus for the Global Waste Investment Fact File.

 

Next up in our series of our Global Waste Investment Fact Files is the South Korea edition. AcuComm currently lists 28 waste projects in the country. These have a total value of US$2,593 million or US$93 million each.

Continue reading Global Waste Investment Fact File: South Korea