Waste: an essential part of the circular economy

Green transition 21 November 2017 Ole Poulsen Inger Anette Søndergaard

The Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen produces energy from waste, with extreme efficiency and a recreational touch.

3 min

“We are closing the loop of design, production, consumption, and waste management, thereby creating a green, circular and competitive Europe.” 

First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, made this statement earlier this year when the EC published its new guidance on the production of energy from waste as part of the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy.

The EU guidance emphasises that “generating energy from waste that cannot be recycled or reused can contribute to a circular economy and energy diversification, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector”. 

The OECD estimates that about one-fifth of global material extraction becomes waste, and, according to the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), 70% of global waste is still disposed of in landfills. 

World-class energy efficiency 

Ramboll works with clients to reduce waste generation, increase high-quality recycling and use residual waste for efficient and clean energy generation – and Ramboll’s Energy from Waste division has projects in the UK, Switzerland and Singapore, among many other places. Amager Bakke, right in the middle of Copenhagen, offers a good example of how waste incineration can deliver world-class energy efficiency. 

The plant can treat up to 560,000 tonnes of waste a year, thus supplying low-carbon electricity to 550,000 people and district heating to 140,000 households. 

The plant, which is being built in collaboration with world-renowned architects BIG, has climbing walls and ski slopes. But its interior is equally innovative. 

Amager Bakke cost-efficiently combines a high energy efficiency boiler with flue gas condensation technology. Consequently, the plant will recover practically all energy stored in the waste, and the net energy efficiency will probably be the world’s highest for a waste-to-energy facility. 

“It was important for us to have the best of the best with the know-how to control and construct a plant and a project of this size,” explains CEO Dan Fredskov from the Amager Bakke ARC. “That’s where Ramboll came into the picture.”