Monday, March 22, 2010

A Show-piece Garbage Incinerator

The visit to Kanazawa Waste Incineration Plant was a real eye-opener.

In a country where just about every consumable is over-packaged and where every garbage-bin is segregated, I have often wondered where all the waste goes. Now I know - it all ends up in massive incineration plants where the waste is converted into energy and a range of bye-products, with hardly any harmful emissions.

The plant building covers an area of ~ 50,000 sq.m. It was designed by NKK & Daiken Design and took about six years to build in March 2001, at a cost of about Yen 62.6 billion. Its three furnaces have a combined processing capacity of 1,200t/day, and if you thought that this was rather lavish for a city of just 3.5 million, just remember that this just one of the four inceineration facilities in Yokohama!

The other four plants are at Hodogaya, Tsuzuki, Tsurumi and Asahi. But the Kanazawa facility is the latest one equipped with a high temperature and pressure boiler (for pollution control and effective use of residual heat) and an ash fusion-furnace which produces a slag used as base material for road construction.

Another amazing thing is that the whole facility has been designed with public-relations in mind. The main entrance leads to an exhibition area where simple models (made from discarded bottles and boxes) are used to explain the plant operations to kids; a visitor's gallery runs around the perimeter of the building providing a bird's eye-view of all but the most hazardous operations.

However, there were many things I just could not understand, and on top of this list was the question of operating costs.

According to the guide, the annual budget for this plant is Yen 43 billion but it receives an income of only Yen 2 billion/year from electricity sales (Another official stated that last year's income from electricity sales was Yen 700 million with units sold at Yen 13/kW). The cost of garbage collection, processing and disposal was given as Yen 50,000/tonne...somehow things just don't seem to add up.

I guess its not easy to get a clear picture from a two-hour conducted tour. However, it does seem to be fairly obvious that this impressive, show-piece facility is viable only because of government subsidies.
Main control-room

Dumping area

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