The “waste to energy” plants which are commonly known as “waste incineration plants” make up a significant component of the municipal waste management system in Western Europe. They are designed to bring maximum benefits to the residents – they safely burn waste, emit virtually completely purified air into the atmosphere, solve the “problem” of municipal waste, and at the same time provide electricity and heat generated in this process. At the same time they are a friendly neighbour.
STRICT EMISSION STANDARDS
Projects such as ITPOK must meet all the strict environment protection regulations applicable in the European Union. This requires application of state-of-the-art technical and technological solutions available in the market.
Possible violations or failure to meet any of the emission or operational requirements may result in the suspension of the project, issue of an administrative decision, or the loss of subsidies from the European Union. Thus SUEZ pays exceptional attention to compliance with all the requirements set for the contractors.
Waste is incinerated in special boilers at very high temperature which reaches even 1000°C. This allows not to produce most of the harmful substances during the incineration of waste in normal household furnaces, where the incineration temperature does not exceed 500 degrees. In Poland, especially in winter, burning of waste, e.g. in central heating furnaces, is a common practice. In this way the dust containing heavy metals, carbon oxide and nitrogen oxide is emitted to the atmosphere. The smoke from furnaces also contains very harmful sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide and carcinogenic dioxins. If the chimneys are short, these substances fall on the ground or hang over the City in the form of smog. In both cases the dust has a harmful impact on our health.
Exhaust gas, which is emitted by the plant in significantly smaller quantities, is treated by using the most modern and technically advanced filters. The systems are designed and operated in such a way so as not to exceed the gas emissions standards.
ACTIVITY IN LOCAL COMMUNITY
European waste incineration plants frequently apply the “open door” policy. Data about emissions and operation of the plant are sent on an ongoing basis to control services by means of an online system. Whereas people living in the surrounding regions may visit the plant several times a year and personally check how it works. Such openness constitutes a basis for social acceptance for this kind of project.
The Polish legislator has also ensured that the relevant environmental supervision authorities (e.g. Voivodeship Inspectorates for Environmental Protection) exercise permanent supervision over the operation of the plant, have access to current measurement results proving its proper operation and compliance with the emission requirements, defined e.g. in the building permit and the integrated permit. It is this document which defines the principles of the technological process and the maximum values of emissions, and one of the requirements is to present directly and publicly the daily results of the measurements of pollutant emissions.
Incineration plants allow to recover energy from waste. The generated thermal and electric energy is used by the plant auxiliaries, whereas excess energy is transferred to the city and national power grid and district heating network. In this way the community may obtain cheaper electric and thermal energy.
Pursuant to legal regulations related to waste incineration plants, it is required to use 65% of energy recovered as a result of waste incineration. Therefore the location of the plant does matter. The incineration plant should be located close enough to the agglomeration so that it is possible to tie it in both the local district heat network and the power grid. It is the so-called energy recycling process, which enables to minimize the possible energy losses and maximizes benefits for the community.