Responsible waste management in Lahti region
Citizens of the Lahti region have been educated for over 20 years on how to separate the waste they generate in their homes. This enables the collection of so called “energy waste”, which includes energy containing materials such as plastics that can be used to produce fuel for combined heat and power production. This has in turn has raised the waste utilisation rate to over 94% in the region.
The use and treatment of waste is one of the most significant environmental issues in the world. In the Lahti region a huge step has been taken by organising waste management by setting up a public private partnership to enable the efficient use and sustainable treatment of the waste.
The main actor in setting up synergies is Päijät-Häme Waste Disposal Ltd (PHJ) which was founded in 1993, and today is jointly owned by 12 municipalities. The company is responsible for the municipal solid waste treatment and collection. In the beginning it was mostly a landfill site but nowadays it is a recycling centre for almost all forms of waste. The recycling centre has attracted other recycling businesses to the area creating new business and jobs for the region. PHJ serves an area with 200,000 residents, thousands of summer residents and over 9,000 businesses.
In 2012 a brand new technology gasifying pilot plant began operating in the region. Lahti Energy’s Kymijärvi II power plant is the first gasification power plant in the world to efficiently generate electricity and district heat from Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF). The raw material of the SRF is energy-containing waste known as energy waste in the region. At Lahti Energy’s power plant, the SRF is gasified, the gas is then purified and the resulting clean ecogas is combusted in an ordinary natural gas boiler producing heat and power. This development raised the waste utilisation rate of the region to over 94%.
This development in the region was possible only as a result of strong political will from the city and the surrounding municipalities.
Another factor affecting the decision was the geographical location of Lahti. The city is located along well developed transport routes, and there is plenty of recycled waste available for the production of solid recovered fuel in the South of Finland.
With strong political will it is possible to create synergies and turn the challenges in waste management into business opportunities. Taking risks to create something new such as the gasification plant in Lahti, has created over 100 jobs in the main plant and supporting businesses.
PHJ has collected energy waste from the Päijät-Häme region for years but it has not been an easy task and it has been noticed that it requires a lot of effort for promoting information sharing and education. Education starts from the kindergardens and is done via different campaigns. The waste collection is also priced so that mixed waste is more expensive and motivates people to source separating. Also the gasification plant pays for the purity of waste coming in, which therefore motivates the waste collection business to educate people to separate their waste.
Separate collection of energy waste is economically viable and possible in any region so this could be developed and expanded elsewhere to enable the efficient treatment of the waste. The maturity of the initiative is estimated to be 7 on the GML scale.