waste-to-energy plant in Vienna, Austria; photo by Contributor (source: Wikimedia Commons)

According to EPA and Eurostat figures, Denmark recycles 42% of its waste and burns 54% in heat and power stations. The US, by comparison, recycles 33% while only 13% is used in waste-to-energy incinerators. The majority of US trash – 54% – ends up in landfills, compared to only 4% in Denmark.

Denmark’s state-owned garbage burning power plants are also newer and more state-of-the-art than America’s privately owned pay-to-burn incinerators. They burn cleaner and produce more heat and energy, making them attractive additions to even wealthy communities. Quite a contrast from the smelly, smoke-belching eyesores that come to mind when someone says the word ‘incinerator’.

A New York Times piece by Elisabeth Rosenthal highlights the success of European incinerators that turn garbage into heat and electricity while releasing minimal pollution:

Denmark now has 29 such plants, serving 98 municipalities in a country of 5.5 million people, and 10 more are planned or under construction. Across Europe, there are about 400 plants, with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands leading the pack in expanding them and building new ones.

Hørsholm is a well-to-do municipality in Denmark that lies 25 km (15 miles) north of the capital Copenhagen. It is also home to a large waste-to-energy plant owned by five adjoining communities. The plant is popular because it lowers heating costs and raises home values. But the benefits of such ultra-modern incinerators are manifold: they reduce energy costs, pollute far less, lessen the need for landfills and cut dependency of fossil fuels. They also produce less pollutants and greenhouse gasses such as CO2 and methane.

Read the entire article here in the New York Times.

Additional resources:

New York Times – The Incinerator as Eye Candy

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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