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District energy

District heating


Making the most of waste in the City of Copenhagen

21. December 2011

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City of Copenhagen
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By putting in place an integrated programme over many years, Copenhagen now sends less than 2 per cent of waste to landfill. Approximately 45 per cent of the waste is recycled and maximum use is made of the residual waste to generate heat for the city’s district heating network. The City of Copenhagen's new  resource and waste plan ”Circular Copenhagen 2019-2024", aims to recycle 70 per cent of the city's waste.

Our waste management problems used to be similar to those of most other major cities: in 1988, over 40 per cent of the city’s waste was sent to landfill and there was concern that incinerating waste within the city boundaries would create dangerous air pollution.

National legislation has now provided an integrated solution – a suite of strategies, policies and investments – that ensure a high rate of recycling and waste to energy.

Waste management is an important element in sustainability as it can help optimise resource consumption through recycling/reuse. Furthermore, waste constitutes a renewable energy source. In this context intelligent, long-term and holistic Waste Management is vital for attaining our overall objectives of creating a Sustainable Community and Green Economy.

The end of life products (waste) can be used as new resources in the form of feedstock for:

  • ’Biological products‘ that can be easily returned to the ’organic cycle‘.
  • ’Technical products‘ that continuously circulate as materials in the industrial cycle.

A focus on changing public attitudes by supplying information on recycling, linking waste and climate change, and improving the possibility for reuse and recycling including easy and logical source separation. At household level, paper, glass, batteries, plastic, metal, electronics, gardening waste, bulky waste and residual waste are collected separately, making source separation an easy choice for the public. The recyclable materials are treated at dedicated facilities turning the materials into recyclable resources.

National legislation means that waste sent to landfill incurs a tax of 62.56 €/tonne while waste sent to incineration incurs a tax of 6.69 €/tonne. It is now illegal in Denmark to send waste to landfill if it can be incinerated.

Waste to energy
Generation of heat and power from residual waste is a core feature of incineration. Although incineration also will play a central role in the waste management system in the future, Copenhagen is looking towards alternative treatment methods to increase material recycling.