Ever since Copenhagen hosted the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference, Denmark has received international attention for its own independent efforts to combat climate change. A country of just 5.6 million, it has continuously held a progressive stance toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past decade it has heavily invested in solar, wind, and waste-to-energy technologies.

This drive towards carbon-neutrality has recently taken a new turn, with a brand-new waste incineration plant being planned for Copenhagen that combines a ski resort with a waste-to-energy facility. The facility is built inside of an artificial ski slope in order to preserve the city’s skyline. The slope itself tops 260 feet in height making it a worthwhile alternative to traveling outside of the country to visit the many other ski resorts in Europe.

The decision to combine utility with leisure was a conscious choice by the facility’s Danish architect. Traditional waste incineration plants are built for a purpose, with design elements that are purely about function, rather than good looks. And since the planned facility was going to become a prominent feature of the city, it was an obvious choice to invent a more aesthetically pleasing appearance for the W-t-E plant.

Once the facility is completed in 2017 it will be able to provide power for over 62,000 of Copenhagen’s residents. The heat produced by the plant will also be piped to 160,000 households in the region. The total carbon emissions of the plant are estimated to be 200,000 tons annually, which is well below the average emissions of a coal fired power plant at 1.2 million tons.

Copenhagen’s new waste-to-energy facility is just one of many new plants going up in the European Union. More restrictive waste disposal regulations are forcing more countries to invest in W-t-E as an alternative to using landfills. And many agree that burning trash for energy is far more practical and environmentally friendly than simply dumping their trash in a landfill.

It is estimated that the average landfill produces 2-6 times more carbon dioxide than trash incineration. So it makes perfect sense to burn trash that is otherwise going to end up rotting away and spewing out large volumes of greenhouse gases. Incineration also allows metals to be removed form the waste stream prior to burning, most of which can be sold off as scrap.

Here in the States, many environmental groups and think tanks have begun lobbying congress to invest in new Waste-to-Energy facilities after seeing the progress Europe has made with the technology. Even without additional federal funding, there are many regions already building their own trash incinerators. So who knows, you might already be using trash as an energy source and don’t even know it!

Source: Nat Geo