Social acceptability or financial cost: do we need to make waste incinerators fancy?

All - Oct 24 2018

In efforts to make Copenhagen the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025, the city of Copenhagen has launched the construction of a next-generation incinerator. 

This waste-to-energy plant can process 35 tons of waste an hour and releases almost exclusively steam while supplying 50,000 households with electricity and 120,000 households with district heating. The architect who won the public call for tenders is Bjarke Ingels, a Copenhagen native. Ingels’ plan is to build not only a fashionable waste incinerator with a slick design but also to turn the incinerator into a year-round ski park, including a bar, restaurant, climbing wall and a ski slope running from the top of the building.

But why should an incinerator be a leisure place? Bjarke Ingels believes that infrastructures should be places people can enjoy. Applying this idea could lead to two practical benefits. Locals are more likely to accept a large investment of their municipality in infrastructures if the infrastructures improve the quality of life in the area as well as the real-estate value. On the other hand, municipalities can secure an extra return on its investment if they sell leisure activities and attract tourists.

In terms of energy, waste incineration represents about 5% of the Danish electricity supply and incinerators supply more than 12% of residential buildings in Denmark with district heating. Waste incineration requires a constant supply of good quality waste to operate and there are concerns that the plant will not operate at full capacity. However, this building is also a statement for better integration and social acceptability of heavy infrastructures that could inspire other environmental projects facing public opposition. However, such enhancements to infrastructure have a cost. For the moment, the plant has already cost an estimated EUR 670 m. It opened in March 2018 and the slope should be ready for this winter skiing season. 

 

Nathan Breen, Climate Analyst Intern - Sources: Beyond Ratings, Financial Times, B&W vølund

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