Phototheque VEOLIA

The hidden energy in waste

Posted on 05 April 2016.

In the Jiading district in Shanghai, the Jiangqiao waste to energy plant is one of the largest facilities of its type in China. It processes 10% of the waste produced by the megalopolis.

With its unbridled economic growth and urbanization, China has become the second largest economy in the world. But it has also become the planet’s largest producer of waste.

Although landfill is still the most usual method of dealing with waste, the Chinese authorities are increasingly turning towards incineration (burning and reducing waste to ashes in furnaces at temperatures ranging from 700°C to 900°C) and energy recovery. In addition to reducing the amount of waste (70% by weight and 90% by volume) and treating non-recyclable waste (contaminated, mixed with non-recyclable materials, etc.), incineration is able to produce heat or electricity by recovering the energy – and there are not only significant saving in fossil fuels but as some of this energy is sold the total cost of the waste treatment is lower too!

In the twelfth five-year plan adopted in March 2011, China set a target of increasing the amount of waste that is incinerated from 10% in 2010 to 35% between 2011 and 2015. To help them achieve their target the Chinese authorities have called on the expertise of foreign companies, specialists in the waste treatment and recycling – for example Veolia, which has won numerous contracts in the Middle Kingdom. Since 2005 it has been operating the Jiangqiao waste to energy plant under an O&M contract which became a BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) contract in 2008 - a real partnership between the company and the city of Shanghai. Equipped with three incinerators and two 12.5 MW turbines for a total installed capacity of 1,500 metric tons per day, in 2011 and in 2013 the plant won the "Shanghai Civilization Unit" prize awarded by Shanghai Municipality. In 2014, the plant took delivery of 381,880 metric tons of waste, processed 282,202 metric tons of it, and generated 97,483 MWh of electricity - 72,990 MWh of which was sold. That’s the power consumption of more than 40,000 households!