In the framework of course Design for the Circular Economy lead by Stefano Giovacchini, our young professionals visited one of the waste-to-energy plant of HERAmbiente in Granarolo dell’Emilia, near Bologna. The waste-to-energy plant makes it possible to dispose of a variety of waste through combustion and the heat generated is exploited to produce heat and electricity.
Managing waste in a more efficient manner is the first step towards a circular economy, where most if not all products and materials are recycled or re-used repeatedly. Waste has a negative impact on the environment, climate, human health and the economy, and although waste management in the EU has improved considerably in recent decades, over a quarter of municipal waste is still landfilled and less than half is recycled or composted. But, by 2035, no more than 10% of municipal waste would be deposited in a landfill in according to the EU targets for recycling. Our young professionals have therefore visited the waste disposal plant to discover all the processes that our waste face after use and to understand the methods and objectives of a more efficient waste management.
Despite the most optimistic forecasts, we will still need of plants to dispose of city waste and be able to produce energy. The HERAmbiente waste-to-energy plant dates back to 1971 but a modernisation and technological upgrade project was undertaken in 2001. The structure includes two parallel, independent waste-to-energy lines, each of which treats 300 metric tonnes of waste per day, from which energy is recovered through a cogeneration plant. The plant generates close to 140 million kWh of electricity per year, which is sent to the national grid, and close to 40 million Mcal of thermal energy per year for the district heating network. The new plant’s technological characteristics were selected while paying close attention to the criteria of the highest degree of environmental protection, reliability and operating safety, technological process and product innovation and high energy efficiency.