Denmark’s Waste Plan, Not So Much Ours

On the front page of the New York Times on Tuesday there was an article entitled “Europe Finds Clean Fuel in Trash; U.S. Sits Back.” This was a very interesting article to me because of what I see as the continuing stubbornness of our country to jump on any bandwagon, even if it might be incredibly beneficial.  In Denmark, they have many energy plants that burn their garbage and use it for heating and electricity for nearby towns.  The plants that carry this out have high-tech filters that catch the pollutants (mercury, dioxin, etc.) that would otherwise be released into the air.  This has diminished much of Denmark’s energy and heating bills, and helped the environment along the way, cutting down on landfills and the dangers they pose.  The U.S. does have a few of these plants, but they were built a very long time ago and likely don’t have the technology needed to really help anything.  What the U.S. has is landfills.  Most landfills just sit there.  A few have plants that collect the gases released to convert to electricity.  But comparison  between the two is saddening.

Here are some of the stats:

One ton of waste can create:

Landfill – 65 kWh,

Waste to Energy Plant – 590 kWh

Emissions for one MWh of electricity:

Landfill – 3.35 metric tons CO2, 600 grams Sulfur Oxides, 2300g NOx

Waste to Energy Plant – 0.56 metric tons CO2, 220 grams Sulfur Oxide, 1450g NOx

One Year’s Worth of Waste Could Create:

Landfill – 9 million MWh of electricity, enough to power 800,000 homes

Waste to Energy Plant – 80 million MWh, enough to power 7 million homes

It is amazing to me that we aren’t looking seriously into this kind of technology.  It would be so beneficial to our situation.


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