Planning ahead with waste management

We’ve seen in recent articles how waste management can often be overlooked, or at best an afterthought, in the wider business of urban planning. West London looks likely to have to dismantle a new WtE facility in order to accommodate the city’s growing air transport needs. And in many Chinese cities, state-encouraged urban growth has led to waste generation outstripping existing means of treatment.

But that’s not always the case. On 7th January 2019, the Danish Government and Hvidovre Municipality announced an agreement to initiate the work to build nine new artificial islands as part of what will become the largest land reclamation project in Scandinavia. The project, entitled Holmene (‘the Islets’), will comprise 3 million square metres of land, located 10 km south of Copenhagen. The largest of the nine islands will be reserved for the development of green technologies, including what will be the biggest waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Northern Europe. Along with related biowaste and waste water facilities, the project will be able to generate around 35 MW of electricity, enough to fulfil the present needs of around 25% of the population of Copenhagen.

The project is ambitious, and work is expected to begin only in 2022. The first islet, which will be home to the WtE plant, will be finished by 2028, and the whole project will be completed by 2040, according to current plans. The project’s designer is Urban Power, based in Copenhagen.


There are a few other large integrated projects of this nature around the world. One is Hong Kong, which is currently building a range of waste management facilities on an artificial island. The centrepiece is a 55 MW WtE plant capable of handling 3,000 tonnes of waste per day. The site will also include an MBT plant and wastewater processing facilities. The project was first mooted in 2008 and received approval in 2015. Work on land reclamation began in 2018. The WtE plant is due to become operational in 2024.

While planning ahead is clearly laudable, there are pitfalls. Large projects are more prone to delays, be they technical, regulatory or financial. Those delays may have nothing to do with the waste management component. Also, project management is more of a challenge, as a range of companies need to be involved, with different and possibly competing priorities and areas of expertise. Finally, attempting to plan for needs decades in advance runs the risk of getting those needs wrong, on either the high or low side. But on balance, it’s surely far better to try to look ahead.

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