Taking waste mountains by storm

This project for a high-tech treatment station, which forms part of an integrated regional waste management strategy, also has economic and social consequences for the local population.

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The waste sorting centre at the new treatment station site in Łężyce: high-level technology for high-level environmental protection. The waste sorting centre at the new treatment station site in Łężyce: high-level technology for high-level environmental protection.

Context

In this remarkable natural environment on the Baltic coast, in the voivodship of Pomerania, the municipalities of Gdynia, Sopot, Rumia, Reda, Wejherowo and Kosakowo account for a total of approx. 400 000 inhabitants. They are confronted by similar problems, notably with regard to environmental protection. In order to deal with them more effectively, they have formed an inter-municipal structure, “Dolina Redy i Chylonki”, within which they have developed a regional strategy for integrated, comprehensive waste management, known as the “MIX” system. This involves selective waste collection and the construction of a new treatment station using the most advanced technologies, whose general objective is to satisfy the European and Polish legal standards and to promote sustainable development.

Launched in this context in 1998, the treatment station project has benefited from European financial support under the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) then, after Poland joined the EU in 2004, under the Cohesion Fund. The partner municipalities entrusted the operations to the waste processing company “Eko Dolina” (“Ecovalley”), created by them and in which they are shareholders. The chosen location for the new station is alongside the rubbish tip which was established in 1978 near the village of Łężyce, and one of the project’s objectives is to degas the site and to evacuate leachates. The first phase of works began in 2003.

The entire waste processing chain

The new station is designed to treat all kinds of waste: mixtures, recyclables, hazardous, organic and inert waste from the construction and public works sector and bulk refuse, whilst the initial sorting task is undertaken by the individual municipalities. The system should make it possible to minimise the quantity of waste sent to landfill, prevent the spreading of pollutants in the environment, conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment – for air, soil, surface and ground water, waste composition, gaseous emanations, leaching, etc. – ensure that the former tip is cleaned up, pre-process discharge sludge and leachates, safely handle hazardous waste and reuse recyclable waste. The biogas which is collected will be used to produce electricity that will cover the station’s requirements and the surplus will be distributed through the national grid.

Economic and social consequences

Apart from the environment, the project also has economic and social effects. An agreement signed in 1999 with the village of Łężyce envisages additional investments which are intended to provide the village with a bypass, a sewage system and wells, public lighting and a sports ground. A key point in the agreement involves giving priority to the recruitment of local inhabitants at the treatment station.

Results

At the end of phase one in 2006, achievements include a sorting centre with a capacity of between 25 000 and 50 000 tonnes per year, an inert waste tip for the construction and public works sector of 170 000 m³, a unit to dismantle refuse domestic appliances, a composting installation for organic waste with a capacity of 6 000 t/year, a temporary depot for hazardous waste (500 to 1 000 t/year), an electrical plant to use the biogas with an output capacity of 2 MW, etc. To date, 70% of the personnel working at the site are inhabitants of Łężyce.

Future phases include extending the capacity of the sorting centre to 100 000 t/year and the composting capacity to 30 000 t/year (in order to satisfy EU standards regarding the limitation of the use of landfill for biodegradable waste). There are also plans for an alternative fuel production unit.

These achievements have been combined with the effects of a widespread information campaign about the project’s environmental issues and European aid amongst potential beneficiaries, professional organisations, regional and local authorities and NGOs, not to mention the general public. For although there are a number of conditions upon which the experiment’s success and its potential transfer to other regions depend – solutions to complex technical problems, effective large-scale project management, coordination of municipalities, etc. – the main condition is the motivation and practical commitment of all the local actors.


Draft date

01/06/2006