Author Archives: Narciso Correa

About Narciso Correa

I like cats.

Posts by Narciso Correa

Making Waste to Energy viable through Effective Policy: A case study of Sweden

1. Williams, Matt. “Waste to Energy Success Factors in Sweden and the US: Analyzing the Transferability of the Swedish Waste-to-Energy Model to the US” December 2011. Accessed March 17, 2013.


Williams in this paper provides an overview of waste-to-energy in Sweden and the United States. The paper broadly discusses the unique factors that make waste-to-energy feasible in Sweden and not so feasible in the United States. The paper enumerates the policies, infrastructure, culture and economic realities that make waste-to-energy a success in Sweden. Williams points to high landfilling fees as a disincentive to landfilling and as an incentive to use incineration as an alternative. He talks about the carbon tax, direct subsidies, the recognition of waste-to-energy as a renewable resource among other things as policies that have shaped waste-to-energy in Sweden. He talks about the extensive district heating infrastructure they have and how waste-to-energy perfectly fits into this system as it produces more heat than electricity. He also points to the absence of cheap domestic supply of energy and the high price of oil as motivations for favoring waste-to-energy. Lastly Williams argues that the public support for waste-to-energy makes implementing policies and building infrastructure easier. Williams studies US waste-to-energy using the same lenses and then provides us a guideline to adopting waste-to-energy in the US.


Williams provides a good primer to the topic I will be discussing in my paper. His research on policy, though brief and somewhat shallow provides us with a good jumping point in understanding what the policies are and how they have influenced the adaptation of waste-to-energy technologies. I will be following his research on policy and will be expanding on them in the context of making waste-to-energy a viable option with regards to an environmentally friendly future. I will look into the laws and fees regarding landfilling in the EU and in Sweden and how these policies have incentivized the growth of waste-to-energy technologies. I will look into the carbon tax implemented by both the EU and Sweden and again look at it in the context of motivating the growth of waste-to-energy. I will look into the objectives of the Swedish EPA and see how these have shaped the growth of waste-to-energy.  My paper will provide an in depth look into these policies and see how they’ve made waste-to-energy so successful in Sweden.

2. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. “Sweden’s Environmental Objective” October 2011. Accessed March 15, 2013.


This government paper highlights Sweden’s commitment to an environmentally sustainable future. Produced by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the paper enumerates the 16 environmental quality objectives of the Swedish government describing an overall guideline for government wide policy.  The quality objectives that directly pertain to waste-to-energy are overall commitments to a Reduced Climate Impact, Clean Air, A Non-Toxic Environment, A Good Built Environment and Good Quality Ground Water. These objectives while broad, direct the Swedish government’s policies towards an environmentally sustainable Sweden for future generations.


This paper dictates the goals that broadly show the direction of Swedish environmental policy. The commitment to passing on to the next generation a Sweden in which most of the environmental problems are solved accounts for the preference for the most sustainable waste management option. To the Swedes landfilling is the most unsustainable option as it violates most of these goals. Landfilling produces massive quantities of air and water pollutants and thus is incompatible with a reduced climate impact and a non-toxic environment. Incineration while not completely sustainable is the lesser of two evils. Waste-to-energy technology provides energy and heat while reducing the total landfilling tonnage.

3. Lonnroth, Mans. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. “The Organization of Environmental Policy in Sweden: A Historical Perspective.” December 2010. Accessed March 14, 2013.


Lonnroth’s paper describes the formal organization of Swedish environmental policy, and discusses its implementation. According to Lonnroth the Swedish government is unitary rather than federal. In unitary states the central government has supreme power over policy and law, and subordinate administrative branches can only exercise powers deliberately delegated to them. In the case of Sweden however, the “constitution expressly forbids the Government to give directions to agencies in individual cases concerning private citizens.” Thus the regional and local authorities, who are directly elected, are charged with implementing national policy.

Lonnrotj also talks about the relationship of environmental policy in relation to the overall modernization of Sweden, and the relationship of environmental legislation to other areas of legislation that overlap with environmental concerns. He argues in the paper that “the structure for environmental policy has been more successful when that policy has been aligned with – and thus helped to speed – overall [economic] modernization, and less successful when it has run counter to [economic] modernization.” He cites the example of “reducing industrial pollution, almost to the point of eliminating it” as one of the larger successes of this alignment.


Lonnroth’s paper argues that the formal political organization of Sweden fosters more than others the advancement the environmental agenda. The Swedish system provides us with a model way of implementing environmental policy. The deputation of implementation on a localized level allows for much greater flexibility as depends the circumstances of the locale. This I theorize in areas with district heating grids made the acceptance and usage of waste-to-energy plants most alluring.

Lonnroth acknowledges in his paper that economics plays a large part in the effectiveness of policy. If environmental imperatives align with economic ones, the policy is more likely to succeed. Waste incineration falls in line perfectly with this argument. Waste-to-energy technology is more environmentally friendly than landfilling. It has significantly less greenhouse gasses emissions, it prevents pollutants from entering our water supplies and it significantly decreases the volume of the waste product. These environmental benefits come with the economic benefits of producing the commodities heat and energy.

4. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. “A Strategy for Sustainable Waste Management: Sweden’s Waste Plan” 2005. Accessed March 19, 2013.


This paper provides a comprehensive view of Sweden’s strategy for sustainable waste management. It sets down the plan on how Sweden intends on achieving its environmental goals as well as the waste figures on year-to-year operation. The paper details the waste disposal policies of both the EU and Sweden. It details the specific legislations surrounding waste-to-energy and talks about its impacts on the technology. It talks about the effects of banning the landfilling of organic and burnable trashes, as well as the land fill tax – both of which have large repercussions towards the waste-to-energy industry. It has statistics detailing the quantities of waste produced and disposed of by the economy as a whole and on a per capita basis. Appendices attached to the paper show the current operating data and projected operating data of the 29 individual waste-to-energy plants in operation in Sweden. It also has tables showing the emissions from waste-to-energy incineration plants from 1985-2004, despite the doubling of plants in operation. The paper details waste import and export figures for incineration. It also enumerates the policies surrounding the disposal of fly ash waste from incineration and shows figures about it.


The paper provides hard data for the argument I intend to make. The paper has data that shows the direct connections between actual policies and implementation. The EU and Swedish policies surrounding the banning of landfilling of organic and burnable waste as well as the landfill tax in particular can be seen as direct incentives to the increased usage of waste-to-energy technologies. The data showing decreases in landfilling as well as increases in waste-to-energy plants illustrate the effectiveness of the Swedish environmental policies. Data showing the waste disposal figures also indicate a direct correlation of increased usage of waste-to-energy technologies in the advent of certain environmental policies. The table showing the operating data of the 29 waste-to-energy facilities illustrate that Sweden is currently in an expansionary phase with regards to this technology. The data showing the import and export of waste demonstrate that Sweden is a net importer of trash. This shows the effectiveness of their waste management policies indicating that Sweden is operating its waste-to-energy plants under capacity.

Waste-to-Energy in Sweden Timeline

Sweden is at the forefront of technology when it comes to Waste to Energy. The energy produced using their waste generate both heat and electricity, resources that are invaluable in a locale such as Scandinavia. The success of their waste management program – only 4% of their waste goes to landfills – is such that they have to import trash from Norway to satisfy their energy and heat needs. An examination of the implementation of the waste to energy system in operation in Stockholm, Sweden’s largest city, could prove vital to understanding how it can be implemented here in NYC.

1940              First Waste to Energy Plant is built in Sweden (Fortum 2011)

1948              District heating grids introduced to Sweden, which provides outlets for heat produced during the conversion of waste to energy. The compatibility of Waste to energy here is two fold. Firstly, this technology is more efficient at producing heat than it is in producing energy. And secondly centralized production of heat is also more efficient than localized boilers. (Williams 2011)

1967              Establishment of Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the National Licensing Board for Environmental Protection under the Ministry of Agriculture. Swedish EPA established environmental regulations and the Licensing Board reviewed the development of industrial plants. (Swedish EPA 2010)

1970              Hogdalen Waste-to-Energy Power plant commissioned by the city of Stockholm. (Fortum 2011)

1979              Hogdalen Plant connected to district heating.(Fortum 2011)

1981              Moratorium on new incinerators put in place because of growing concerns about dioxins. (Yarte 1999)

1987              Ministry of Environment established in Sweden. They gave more localized control over environmental issues to county administrative boards. They also formalized the sectorial principle environmental policy. Agencies that the EPA has no direct control over, must now include environmental considerations in their policy making. (Swedish EPA 2010)

Moratorium on new incinerators repealed. (Yarte 1999)

1991              A tax on CO2 of 0.25 Swedish Kronor per kg which is about $100 per ton on the use of oil, coal, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, petrol, and aviation fuel used in domestic travel was established. This incentivized the use of alternative fuel sources, one of which was Waste-to-Energy. (Wilson 2011)

1999              EU Landfill Directive introduced that requires member states to accept stringent technical requirements for landfilling wastes. This drives the prices for waste disposal in landfills larger, thereby making the Waste-to-Energy option more sensible. (EU Waste Directive 1999)

2000             Tax is imposed on all waste destined for landfills. It is set at 250Krona/ton or 39$/ton in its introduction. This tax was a disincentive and served to cut Sweden’s landfilling rate to what is currently 4%. (Averfall 2007)

2002             Combustible waste is banned by law from being put into landfills in Sweden. The only other way to get rid of it is through waste-to-energy. (Yarte 1999)

EU Directive on waste incineration is put into effect by Sweden. These laws led to the retrofitting of active plants, to meet the more stringent guidelines on emissions in the air, ground or water. (EU Incineration Directive 2000)

2004             Hogdanen plant capacity is expanded to 700 000 tons of waste. (Fortum 2011)

2005              Swedish government proposes waste management plans that set a target of producing 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and achieving complete carbon neutrality by 2050. (Swedish EPA 2005)

Landfilling of organic waste made illegal in Sweden. (Swedish EPA 2005)

2006             Tax is increased to 435 Krona per ton or 67$/ton on waste heading to landfills. (Averfall 2007)

European Union recognizes Waste-to-Energy technology as a renewable form of energy. European Union Waste Framework Directive treats the technology as another form of recycling.

2009             49% of all waste or roughly 236.2kg of trash per person was converted into energy. This translates to 2,173,000 tons of household waste and 2,497,830 tons of industrial waste that were treated by incineration. (Eurostat 2009)

2010              Swedish Generation Goal: “The overall goal of environmental policy is to hand over to the next generation a society in which the major environmental problems have been solved.”(Swedish EPA 2012)

2012              Sweden imports 800 000 tons of trash from neighboring Norway for incineration and gets paid for it. They produce, heat and electricity with the said waste, and return the byproducts of the process to Norway to be landfilled. (Ostund 2012)

2020             The goal is to completely eliminate dependency on oil for energy and heat. This would mean expansion in existing capacities in alternate sources of energy including incineration.(Swedish EPA 2005)

2050              Complete carbon neutrality must be achieved.



“Waste – Landfill Directive 1999.” – Environment. European Union, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

Ostlund, Catarina. “Living on Earth: Database Error.” Interview by Gellerman. Living on Earth. Public Radio International, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <>.

“Summary of the Current EU Waste Legislation.” Municipal Waste Europe. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

DOCUMENT 135: United Nations Convention (1985) and Protocol (1987) on Ozone Depletion.” The Environmental Debate: A Documentary History. Amenia: Grey House Publishing, 2011. Credo Reference. Web. 19 March 2013.

Fortum Corporation Waste to Energy Sustainablity Solution, 2011.

“New Emission Limits for Waste-to-energy Plants in Sweden: By Gunnar Bergvall, National Environmental Protection Board, Box 1302, S-171 25 Solna, Sweden.” Waste Management & Research 5, no. 3 (September 1987): 403–406. doi:10.1016/0734-242X(87)90091-7.

Shaub, Walter M., and Wing. Tsang. “Dioxin Formation in Incinerators.” Environmental Science & Technology 17, no. 12 (December 1, 1983): 721–730. doi:10.1021/es00118a007.

“Environmental Objectives.” – Enviromental Objctives Portal. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

“Towards a Greener Future with Swedish Waste to Energy, The Worlds Best Example.“ Averfall Sverige: Swedish Waste Management

Yarte, Nini. “THIS WEEK; SWEDEN EXPANDS INCINERATION PLANTS, BANS LANDFILLS.” Business World 12 Apr. 1999: 32. 1999. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

plaNYC vs futurists

It is clear that adaptation and mitigation is necessary for the survival of our cities.The NYC DEP Climate Change Program Assessment and Action Plan properly enumerates thechallenges that threaten NYC and provides possible solutions to these problems. Ratcliffe and Krawczyk question their approach.

Do you think that the political system we currently inhabit prevents planners and politicians described by Ratcliffe and Krawczyk from becoming more ‘visionary’ in their approach to planning for NYC’s future?

How can we reconcile the risks and necessity of an ambiguous futurist approach to planning and make them more understandable, even palatable, for politicians, plannersand ultimately to the tax payers to whom they are responsible?

Do you think that the politicians and planners of today have lost the capacity for being
‘visionary’, because of the past follies of Robert Moses, and the negativity that association invites?

Memo1: Waste to Energy; Sweden vs NYC

To: Professor MacBride
From: Narciso Correa
Date: 2/14/13
Re: Memo #1

In my research paper, I will try to determine the reasons for why, despite its large success, has a waste to management system yet to be implemented in one of the largest waste producing cities in the world, NYC. To find the answer to this question, I will thoroughly profile Sweden’s Ecocycle program, one of the most efficient waste to energy systems currently in operation in the world. By studying Swedish government data and private research data, I will provide a detailed explanation of the program’s implementation and expand on the program and logistics of running such a system. I will then try to determine aspects of the waste to energy system in Sweden that might make it incompatible with NYC, paying special attention to NYC politics, culture and economy.

I plan on using data from the Swedish government to find out more about their Ecocycle program. One problem that I might encounter is that their data may be in Swedish and I may have to resort to secondary sources. With regard to obtaining data about NYC politics/economy I will consult the various arrays of data filled government websites available to the public. To determine cultural implications on waste to energy in NYC, if time permits then I may conduct a survey. But if not I will rely on the numerous surveys about environmentalism that are available through Baruch’s Databases.

Does the current system for planning and action to adapt and mitigate climate change for NYC described by Rosenzweig match with Jane Jacobs approach to city planning? Would this approach lead us to a lifestyle similar to that of the people Lenape and a return to the Manhatta of the past? 

Comments by Narciso Correa

"I think until the technology to recycle plastic completely and return it to an economically viable resource, only collection and storage from different types of wastes is the viable option. I think we should just stockpile it until we can do in greater scales."
--( posted on May 25, 2013, commenting on the post What to do with plastics other than one and two? )
"Waste to energy could potentially solve our waste issues in New York City. Waste to energy provides drastically reduced environmental impact compared to landfilling and provides us a way to locally handle our own waste responsibly without exporting it. It would limit the scope of our environmental impact to a local level as opposed to a nation wide or global level. Localizing doesnt necessarily free the issue from environmental racism, but locating this plant within city boundaries is could be feasible. Building over already established waste transfer stations and replacing them with waste to energy plants could minimize overall impact by retaining the status quo."
--( posted on May 25, 2013, commenting on the post Rewriting the rules of Environmental Racism )
"1. I think energy specific initiatives would be my priority as a key decision maker for NYC. So much of NYC depends on the energy infrastructure. Key transportation segments such as the subways, the essential communication lines such as phone and internet, to the every day appliances that we use at home - the failure in our energy system would mean a grounding halt in the functioning of these and many more essential services. To describe the others as less pressing would be inviting some critique. I think all serve vital functions and are important in their own right. But given limited resources, the priority would be in the infrastructure system on which the others depend on, that is energy. 2. I think there are lessons to learn from each one, and that not a single one would best fit NYC."
--( posted on Mar 4, 2013, commenting on the post What would you do? )
"1. I think the interdependence of NYC’s energy infrastructure is such that damage inflected on one can and would trigger a domino effect. A singular natural disaster that hits our energy system generates problems that depend on this very same system, ranging from transportation all the way to telecommunication. I think the only benefit we can draw from this interdependence is the overwhelming vulnerability and thus imperative it brings to our conversations about climate change and adaptation. Because a natural disaster like Sandy can cause the damage that it did, it is crucial that we improve our infrastructure to adapt. 2. The current plans for infrastructure adaptation seem focus on short-term quick fixes as opposed to critical adaptations in infrastructure that would make them more suitable for a changing climate. This sort of short-term thinking will have many negative repercussions further along the line. 3. From an economic perspective, I think it all depends on the cost benefit analysis associated with natural disasters. If the monetary and political costs are cheaper for these companies to patch up and repair as these problems as they come along rather than completely overhauling the system to provide for climate change, I would argue that they would. And judging from what the “Four Storms in Quick Succession Expose the Flaws in New York City’s Electrical System” it seems like that’s the mindset among these corporations."
--( posted on Mar 4, 2013, commenting on the post The Interdependencies and Dependencies among NYC’s Infrastructure )