Skip to content

Props To Europe: Norwegian Edition

May 10, 2013

Trash piled nine yards high is converted to heat and electricity at a waste-to-energy incinerator in Oslo. (Brian Cliff Olguin for The New York Times)

Is it possible to recycle too much? Apparently so. Or at least recycling too much can cause problems for other energy saving strategies. That is a good good dilemma, and I am having a hard time imagining Americans having the same problem:

Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

The problem is not unique to Oslo, a city of 1.4 million people. Across Northern Europe, where the practice of burning garbage to generate heat and electricity has exploded in recent decades, demand for trash far outstrips supply. “Northern Europe has a huge generating capacity,” said Mr. Mikkelsen, 50, a mechanical engineer who for the last year has been the managing director of Oslo’s waste-to-energy agency.

Yet the fastidious population of Northern Europe produces only about 150 million tons of waste a year, he said, far too little to supply incinerating plants that can handle more than 700 million tons. “And the Swedes continue to build” more plants, he said, a look of exasperation on his face, “as do Austria and Germany.”

But it is easy to imagine Americans helping solve this problem, since we are very good at generating garbage, to the tune of 161 million tons a year (or 3 pounds per person, per day).


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: