Prague takes first steps for a biogas plant

The plant turn organic waste into fuel for public transit, among other uses

Prague City Hall is examining a project to build a biogas plant to process and utilize biodegradable waste from residents, businesses and industry. This waste currently ends up being incinerated or in a landfill, or in the worst case, going down the sewer.

A biogas plant could supply bio CNG fuel for vehicles or supply biogas to the municipal network.

“Currently, Prague does not have facilities for the efficient use of biodegradable waste, which is a significant amount of the waste generated in Prague. We can only compost some of this waste. A biogas plant would use the enormous energy and material potential of biowaste,” Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague) said on the City Hall website.

“This plan fully fits into the concept of the circular economy in which the city works with waste as a resource. We want to further develop the circular economy. We strive for waste prevention and recycling. Already, less than 10 percent of waste ends up in the landfill in Prague.” he added.

Composting waste to make valuable organic fertilizer can only be done from hygienically safe biowaste from, for example, greenery or garden maintenance.

Biowaste that is unsuitable for composting can be processed by anaerobic fermentation in a biogas plant. This is mainly waste from restaurants and cafeterias, expired food from supermarkets and sorted organic waste from citizens.

Other producers of this type of waste include bakeries, slaughterhouses, breweries and confectioners. A biogas plant could be a significant source of CNG biofuel for freight transport or municipal public transit.

“Biowaste is one of the less commonly sorted commodities. It can account for up to 40 percent by weight of mixed municipal waste. Now we want to focus on sorting this kind of waste in Prague so that it is available to all, and at the same time we use waste from businesses,” Hlubuček said.

A waste management evaluation in 2017 showed that out of about 430,000 tons of waste, 56 percent was handled by combustion and 27 percent was recycled.

By 2025, however, the recycling rate needs to be roughly doubled, and biogas plant could significantly help. The estimated capacity of the Prague station would start at 50,000 tons. It then depends on good implementation of biowaste collection.

The first step toward building the plant is to further examine the basic issues. Municipal waste firm Pražské služby in collaboration with the Institute of Circular Economics (Institut cirkulární ekonomiky) will commission a feasibility study looking into availability of materials, infrastructure, collection, transport and other factors.

“Urban waste biogas plants are now an integral part of urban waste management in Western and Northern Europe. Good examples are in Oslo, Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna.

Biomethane (bio CNG) is often used as a fuel for urban buses or trucks,” Patrik Roman, CEO of Pražské služby, said.

“The biogas plant can bring not only efficient recycling of organic waste to Prague, but a project of this kind would also rank Prague among the leaders in the field,” Vojtěch Vosecký of the Institute of Circular Economics said.

The European Circular Economy Package, approved in 2018, sets increasing recycling targets by 2035, warns against landfills, promotes the sorting of commodities, including biowaste, and aims to expand the use of biowaste.

At the same time, building new biomethane production capacities is one of the country's priorities, as it is one way in which renewable energy transport targets and CO2 reduction targets for transport can be met. The project is expected to obtain state support.

Inappropriate biowaste management causes multiple problems. In Prague, the sewage network is clogged and overloaded due to disposal of biowaste down the drain.

Biowaste deposited in landfills causes greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater pollution. Wet biowaste disposed of in a waste incinerator, in turn, reduces the generated energy of mixed municipal waste.

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