The power station of Vasteras, which produces both heat and power, is trying to stop using coal at all. How does it plan to accomplish the objective? By burning discarded clothes from retail chain H&M. The project aims to free the Plant from fossil fuels by 2020, switching from being a facility that mainly uses oil and coal to employing exclusively recycled materials and trash.

A going-green view

In order to become fossil-free, the plant needs to find other burnable materials to constitute renewable or recycled power. The clothes H&M can't sell fit this description according to Jens Neren, head of fuel supplies at the Malerengi, the company that owns and operates the plant.

Sweden has already in place an almost fully emission-free power system, thanks to its ample use of renewable energy. In fact, throughout the country are distributed numerous hydro and wind plants, even though Sweden relies also on its nuclear supply. Nevertheless, some local municipalities still use coal and oil to heat homes and offices during the cold winter season. With this project, Sweden is aiming to finally eliminate its last fossil fuel units within ten years, by converting old plants to burn instead biofuels and garbage.

The recycled materials project

The reason why at the Malarenergi plant H&M clothes are being used as burning materials is an agreement with the nearby city of Eskilstuna.

The deal states that the plant will burn some of the town’s garbage, which includes the clothes discarded by the H&M’s central warehouse located in the area. Following the release, Johanna Dahl, head of communications for H&M in Sweden, communicated via email that H&M only burns clothes that are not safe to use. H&M is legally obliged to eliminate clothes if they have mould or violate the company’s restrictions on chemicals.

Each year the Vasteras plant burns about 400,000 tons of waste, of which 15 tons are H&M clothes, supplying power to over 150,000 households. In the past, to provide the same levels of supply, the facility used to burn a maximum of 650,000 tons of coal per year (1996). The trash does not come only from Eskilstuna, but from several other surrounding cities, with which Malarenergi has deals receive trash.

The company even imports rubbish from the UK to fuel its main boiler.

The last shipment of coal has already happened: it will enable the two remaining fossil-fuel generators to keep working until 2020. By that time, the plant will substitute them with a new wood-fired boiler which will increase the production of power from the burning of biofuels and trash.