Is there a waste crisis in Amsterdam?

The issue of what to do with our waste is a constant problem which can very quickly unravel if the adequate infrastructure isn’t in place, or if for any reason it ceases to function. In a recent AcuComm article, you can read about the unsatisfactory situation in Rome and the wider picture in Italy. But the potential for a ‘waste crisis’ is everywhere. Italy may not have much waste-to-energy capacity for example, but as the Dutch authorities are currently finding, that doesn’t assure waste disposal.

Earlier in July, AEB, the waste-to-energy company owned by the municipality of Amsterdam announced the closure of four of its six incinerators, potentially for up to nine months, with the two remaining plants working at a reduced 80% capacity. The closure is the result of intervention from the environmental regulator, the OD NZKG, which placed AEB under stricter supervision back in February 2018. This sudden and massive reduction in waste processing capacity leaves Amsterdam with a major headache. There is much conjecture on what will become of the waste which can no longer be incinerated – with landfill an option and in the case of sewage sludge, a possible return to disposal at sea. The Amstel, Gooi and Vecht Water Board (Waterschap Amstel, Gooi en Vecht), for example, delivers some 250 tonnes of sewage sludge to AEB every day. Storage capacity is limited and the option of sending the sludge to Germany, where it used to be co-fired in brown coal plants, is no longer permitted under EU rules. AEB is reportedly prepared to bear the financial consequences of the shutdown, but money alone isn’t going to solve the immediate issue of what to do with Amsterdam’s waste.

AcuComm currently has 7 projects involving AEB listed in its database, valued at an estimated €163.3 million in total.

Put the thing on wheels!

Anyone travelling through Heathrow airport’s Terminal 5 can easily spot one of southern England’s largest waste-to-energy (WtE) plants, sitting just outside the airport’s boundary fence. This is the Lakeside Energy From Waste facility, a joint venture opened in 2010 by Grundon Waste Management and Viridor. The facility became fully operational in 2012 and can handle waste upwards of 1,400 tonnes per day, and generates 37 MW of electricity.

But it might not be there for much longer, despite being less than a decade old. After much debate and disagreement, Heathrow looks set to begin work on a new runway in the next few years. Parliament gave its assent in 2018, although final planning approval is yet to be granted, and opposition remains powerful, not least from the current mayor of London.

Proponents of the runway hope that work could begin as early as 2021. This would mean the closure and relocation of the Lakeside facility, as it lies in the way of the necessary expansion of the airport’s boundaries. This in itself is proving politically unpopular, with all the planning requirements and opposition efforts normally found with a brand new WtE site. In February 2019, the plant’s operators announced they have identified a new site for the plant, just 600 metres northwest of its current location. A public consultation on the relocation is currently underway.

map

It probably doesn’t say much for the level of joined-up planning that a new waste facility could be built right on the edge of an airport facing huge pressures to expand. The government appeared to be caught unawares of the implications of a third runway, and initially suggested – unsuccessfully – that plans be drawn up that did not require the plant to be demolished. A timely reminder, perhaps, that the waste sector does not exist in a vacuum, and must compete with other sectors for land and monetary investment. Hence the likely expense of moving the entire plant less than half a mile up the road.

In many ways, the story is indicative of London’s continuing struggle to modernise its waste management services. Until quite recently, London sent most of its waste to landfill outside its boundaries. This approach falls foul of two modern tenets of waste management; that waste should be dealt with in situ as much as possible, and that landfill should be minimised. But fragmented oversight – London has no single waste authority – and planning issues have led to a confused and complex picture.

Lakeside’s principal customer is the West London Waste Authority. The WLWA now landfills very little (most former sites are now closed), instead sending everything it can to two WtE plants. One of these is Lakeside, hence the urgent need to have its replacement ready once the Heathrow bulldozers move in. The other plant is the Suez-operated Severnside, which opened in 2016. This is a modern facility, but doesn’t have the capacity to absorb the waste processed at Lakeside (from the WLWA and other nearby local authorities), and has the added disadvantage of being nowhere near London. Waste from west London is currently transported by road over 100 miles to the Severnside plant.

map2

The Lakeside saga highlights London’s struggle to upgrade its waste management policies and infrastructure, faced with planning law, environmental/residential opposition, and a disjointed regulatory structure. West London is not alone; North London faces similar challenges with its ageing Edmonton plant. Life may have been simpler when Londoners could simply shove all their rubbish onto a barge and float it down the Thames to landfill far away in Essex, but those days are gone. There are opportunities here, of course, for developers and operators of technology which will better allow a large and complex city to deal with its waste in a more efficient manner.

Does New Zealand have a burning waste problem?

One recent new investment proposal caught my eye. A new waste-to-energy plant is being mooted in New Zealand, at Huntly, just south of Auckland, the country’s largest city. Details are scant, although the project’s proposer (Whakaaro-Kingsman) seems to be looking to the new Copenhagen WtE plant, opened in 2017, for inspiration.

New Zealand currently has no major WtE facilities, so the construction of such a plant would represent a significant change in waste policy. The country remains almost totally reliant on landfill, for which statistical collection is poor. The principal driver of change is environmental concerns over rising landfill levels. The recent Chinese ban on imports of waste also appears to be making New Zealanders take more notice of how their rubbish is dealt with.

The past few years have seen better management and control of landfill, and efforts to introduce ‘circular economy’ approaches to waste management.  In 2008, New Zealand passed the Waste Minimisation Act, which began to tax waste sent to landfill, as in Europe. Recent government policy has focussed on reducing landfill tonnage by recycling, and reduction of plastic waste in particular. Plastic shopping bags are due to be phased out in July 2019.

The role of WtE in New Zealand’s waste policy looks dubious, to say the least. The latest government waste strategy, dating to 2010, makes no mention of it as even a possible option. Aside from the environmental position, many of the drivers which would promote WtE do not really exist in New Zealand. The country has plenty of space, with only a small overall population and no major cities, by international standards, aside from Auckland. It’s not clear that other major towns, such as Christchurch or even the capital, Wellington, have the level of waste generation needed to sustain a commercial WtE enterprise.

The Huntly proposal would, on the face of it, need to be fed with waste from across much of New Zealand or even further afield in order to be viable. It is not the only WtE plant mooted in New Zealand, however. The town of Westport on the South Island has been looking using a disused cement works site for a WtE plant (possibly involving pyrolysis) since at least 2016. In May 2018, the developer (Renew Energy Ltd) announced a NZ$300 million deal with China Tianying to build the plant. Also on the South Island, there are tentative plans to build a specialised pyrolysis plant at Blenheim, to deal with waste from the region’s many vineyards.

Proposed WtE plants in New Zealand:

map

At present, none of these plans look like coming to fruition. There’s no obvious public sector enthusiasm, and environmental concerns – justified or not – make them politically difficult. Finally, it’s simply not clear that New Zealand generates the levels of waste to make such investments viable.

There is pressure for change, however, even if it’s simply driven by residents looking at waste that used to be shipped to China and wondering what to do with it. That’s not to say there’s no activity, but successful projects are more likely to be small-scale and focussed in approach. For example, in August 2017, a new PET plastic recycling plant was opened in Lower Hutt, near Wellington. This has attracted public funding from the government’s Waste Minimisation Fund. The plant was upgraded in 2019 and can now handle 6,000 tonnes of PET bottles per year.

Written by Andy Crofts, Chief Data Analyst.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Brazil Biogas Plant

Development of a 5 MW biogas plant

TIM Brasil, a large telecoms company, is starting operations at a new biogas plant in São Paulo.

The project will allow TIM Brasil to generate energy for use at its own facilities, serving 864 antenna sites in total. It will also allow progress towards the company’s target of sourcing 60% of its energy from renewable sources.

See the latest from this project.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Bosnia & Herzegovina Waste Management Project

Development of a landfill, transfer station and biomass boiler

The Municipality of Zavidovici is planning to develop a new project and has requested financial support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Bosnia & Herzegovina Waste Management Project

Global Waste Investment Fact File: Lithuania

In the Lithuania edition of our Global Waste Investment Fact File, we cover 25 projects in the country. These have a total value of US$2,031 million and US$81 million on average.

lithuania-map

Key points from this Fact File:

  • Incineration (with energy recovery) is the leading project type, accounting for US$1,306 million or 64% of the total. This is followed by waste processing, accounting for US$682 million or 34% of the total.
  • The total estimated capacity of these projects is 6.4 million tonnes. This is equal to 255,177 tonnes per project on average and 502% of Lithuania’s estimated annual waste generation.
  • Waste investments totalling US$1,445 million are expected to become operational over the next few years. This is currently expected to peak in 2020 at US$997 million.
lithuania-graph
Download this Fact File.

See the full list of projects in Lithuania.

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Rwanda Biogas Plants

Development of power plants supplied with naturally occurring biogas

Two power plants are to be implemented on the shores of Lake Kivu to produce 56 MW of power that will be exported to the Rwandan grid.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – Rwanda Biogas Plants

AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – China Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility

Construction of a hazardous solid waste treatment facility

Last month, China Everbright International announced that it had secured a contract for the second phase of a hazardous solid waste treatment project in Xinyi City.

Continue reading AcuComm’s Daily Full Access Project – China Hazardous Waste Treatment Facility