So I saw that there was a hot topic about Sweden importing trash and incinerating it for heat and electricity. I am working in Malmö where this is such a plant, I dont work for that company but for the municipality organisation which has the assignment of collecting waste in the city.

Ask me anything!

Comments: 1540 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

SgianDubh616 karma


holmisSUN467 karma


TheGreatFuzz303 karma

In your opinion, what is holding back other countries from adopting this technique?

holmisSUN400 karma

Having the goals set by a municipality that has control over the entire process so there are 100 of different companies/organisations who get in the way.

GreyMatter22118 karma

So in what point of your life did you decide that you actually want to be a garbage engineer?

holmisSUN295 karma

I'm still not sure this is what I want to do :)

compuhyperglobalmega206 karma

How efficient is the process? The US has attempted the waste to energy idea before, but the costs never balance out.

holmisSUN327 karma

It started as a way of getting rid of waste. Landfills take up a lot of space and we dont have that much land in Europe compared to the US. You also need a good infrastructure to deliver the energy, we mostly use it for heating homes and that is done by heating the water and sending it through pipes to peoples radiators, it is a lot more efficient than transporting electricity and using radiators that run on that.

MaximumParsimony111 karma

Hey trash man, thanks for the ama.

I read this article back in the day, which I assume is basically what you are working on.

1] Sounds like they scrub the allmighty living shit out of the emissions. What is the worst thing in the remaining emissions, and how does it compare to comparable fossil fuel pollution?

2] In the article, it seemed like they did end up with a small amount of quite concentrated, very toxic ash. What do you do with this stuff in the long term?

3] What do you do at the plant?


holmisSUN136 karma

  1. One thing that is not removed is Helium unfortunately
  2. Like someone already answered it's landfilled or used in concrete/asphalt for roads
  3. I dont actually work at the plant, I work with the part that handles the collecting of the garbage, a lot of costumer contact to make sure their waste collection works out and introducing separate collection of organic waste

MaximumParsimony55 karma


1] What's up with the helium? Seems like it is not a pollutant.. is it that you wish you could be recycling it?

3] That's cool you're separating organics... I assume this is getting composted.. how are you doing the composting and what happens to the compost?

holmisSUN150 karma

  1. It's just hard to "capture" but it's not a lot that gets out
  2. It's digested anaerobicly so we get methane gas from it that is used as an alternative fuel for vehicles. And the byproduct is used as fertilizer.

So you get both the energy and all the minerals from the organic waste and can recycle it.

brtt300018 karma

Does the trash burn by itself or do you need to mix like fuel or gas?

Does the process result in a net energy gain or does more of the added fuel go in then usable heat comes out?

And how competitive is the 'price' of the energy gained compared to a normal (commercial?) power-generator (gas, coal, biomass)? Or is it just a 'free' by-product that'd be a shame to waste?

holmisSUN46 karma

There is no extra fuel added but it needs to be mixed from different sources to get a good mix.

Because you have to spend so much money on cleaning out pollution from this mixed fuel it's not as competitive as oil/coal. But since it is as you say a "free" by-product it's better to get the energy from it than putting it in landfills.

noddin_all_day198 karma

I would just like to say that your English is better than half of the people I know (I live in the southern states). Half of them wouldn't know how to use the word "municipalities," much less use it in a coherent sentence. One of my friends is from Sweden, and I love when he corrects other people on their grammar. You are a smart lot.

holmisSUN144 karma

Thank you :)

mayowarlord108 karma

I just wanted to say thanks for all that you do. Sweden is quite the role model in this department and I hope that other countries are looking up to you. On that note, what do you think needs to happen to encourage the rest of the world(mostly USA) to get involved with more alternative energy production?

holmisSUN128 karma

Probably the aversion americans have of the state/municipalities. You can do a lot more long term plans like setting up the infrastructure of garbage collecting and energy transportation if it's one big organisation that does it instead of many small ones.

Terdfergeson87788 karma

How did Sweden decide on what land would be used for this imported garbage? What factors were there that might or might not be obvious to someone not in the field or who is a Swede?

holmisSUN159 karma

Some countries like Italy is not very good to get waste from because you can get litterally anything in what is supposed to be household waste (toxic waste etc.) So preferably from a country that has organized collecting the waste but no way of getting rid off it.

And that they are willing to pay us for handling their waste ofc.

Araneatrox67 karma

There is a blockage in my flats waste shoot. Could you send someone to fix it? I am in Vårbergsplan 4, Skärholmen.

holmisSUN46 karma

Sorry dude I work in Malmö

Krogan_Intifada52 karma

What's the strangest thing you've ever found ? (in garbage)

holmisSUN118 karma

I dont collect garbage myself but one of my colleges who used to do it once found a whole pigs head in a normal garbage bin in an appartment complex.

No_944 karma

How exactly does it work?

Can you tell us about the negative side effects, if there are any?

Do you wipe front to back, or back to front?

Would you rather... nah, I'll leave it at those three.

holmisSUN75 karma

Basicly you putt all the trash in a big hole. Have a giant ass claw that picks it up and drops it into the incineration. From the fire you heat water and have the steam run a giant piston to produce electricity.

This is one of the ways to preserve the energy.

Negative side is that if you dont invest a lot of money from the start the incineration plant will pollute the air.

dharlem3921 karma

sounds like this would produce a lot of CO2? But i guess engineers are smart enough to measure that etc. What ARE some of the undesireable byproducts?

holmisSUN67 karma

In the fly ash you get a lot of dangerous byproducts and that still needs to go to landfilling because we dont have any good way of recycling it.

It does produce a lot of CO2 but compared to landfill where methane gas is produced you do less harm to the environment.

dharlem3914 karma

I thought CO2 had a much longer residence time than methane though? otherwise it sounds good. I just want to know it isn't too good to be true. Would love to see some solid studies about this stuff!

ohyah33 karma

is "garbage engineer" a degree, or did you major in engineering and minor in garbage?

holmisSUN53 karma

Nah was just a funny title for the thread. But my work title is Planing engineer which is a bit off since I do not have an engineering degree.

lilblake9150 karma

I thought he was just a shitty engineer and was being very honest with himself

holmisSUN60 karma

Considering that I have no real engineering title then yeah

ThePhantomPotato30 karma

Is the feeling of doing something amazing for the benefit of others provide you with a sense of pride and joy like it should?

holmisSUN47 karma

Some days when you solve a problem or done some information campaign that you see result from it feels kind of that way. Some days when nothing works like it should and people have a hard time getting rid of their trash it's anoying as hell.

faiek23 karma

What's the situation with air pollution from the incineration? Straight out the chimney or are the fumes captured and filtered somehow? There is obviously screening for items that are hazardous when burnt, what's the procedure and is it effective? Is it any better, environmentally, to burn the rubbish rather than bury it?

holmisSUN44 karma

It goes through several stages of filtering from electrolysis to good old fashioned filters.

Sonmi-45217 karma

Isn't Sweden producing massive amounts of air pollution with the method of incineration? Have you heard of plasmafication? Any thoughts on switching to a cleaner, more efficient technology?

holmisSUN18 karma

It's up to the different inciniration plants what way they do it and when they invest in new technology so I'm sure there are plenty of people in Sweden who are looking at it but I'm not sure if anyone is switching over to it at the moment

Jaylien_Contact4 karma

what type of technology is used? Is there one specifically, which is optimized for garbage as opposed to any other biofuels? Also, in Sweden, of all the Waste to energy plants in operation, how much (%) is funded by government, and how much is supported by the private sector?

holmisSUN16 karma

It's all funded by a fee from the people who throw away their garbage. You pay according to how much you throw away and the entire system is funded by that. The average house here pays 120 euro a year.