A power plant in Sweden is converting to burning trash – including unusable clothing from retailer H&M.
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The last coal shipment has been delivered to a Swedish power plant located in Vasteras, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Stockholm. But the plant, owned by Malarenergi AB, is not shutting down. Instead, it is converting to burning only renewable and recycled fuels. These recycled fuels will include, for the first time, unusable clothing from retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB.
To fuel the plant’s boiler, Malarenergi collects rubbish from nearby cities, including Eskilstuna, the home of H&M’s central warehouse, and a large portion of the city’s trash includes discarded clothing from the warehouse. Johanna Dahl, H&M’s head of communications in Sweden, has assured customers that the company does not burn any clothing that is safe to use, but only throws away clothing contaminated with mold or containing unsafe chemicals. To date, the plant has burned around 15 tons of discarded clothing, along with 400,000 tons of general waste.
The plant will use the last of its stored coal by 2020, by which time it will have converted entirely to using biofuels, wood and trash. This is part of a larger program in which Sweden hopes to convert all of its power plants to renewable fuels by the end of the decade. We have already seen a number of replacements for fossil fuels, including a power company that generates electricity from horse manure and the world’s first plant that uses a combination of wind and hydro power. With Malarenergi, we are seeing a wider variety of discarded materials burned for fuel. However, to keep the main boilers running, Malarenergi already imports trash from as far as Britain, so it seems clear this plant, and others alike, will need to continue burning a wide variety of fuels if they hope to maintain their output without resorting to fossil fuels. Could trash really be a reliable long-term source of fuel?