Home to the largest dumpsite in Europe still in use, Serbia’s capital city, Belgrade, has turned to French environmental services firm as it looks to clean up its waste disposal.

Image © Jovan Marković, Via Flickr

Home to the largest dumpsite in Europe still in use, Serbia’s capital city, Belgrade, has turned to French environmental services firm as it looks to clean up its waste disposal.

Following a competitive bidding process SUEZ has secured the largest PPP contract in the country so far to build a new waste to energy plant and a C&D waste recycling plant. As part of the 25 year deal the firm will also build a new sanitary landfill and take on the significant task of remediating the old Belgrade municipal waste site. Through a Special Purpose Vehicle with its partner ITOCHU, SUEZ will also be responsible for financing, construction and the long-term operation of the new facilities.

Fabrice Rossignol, CEO SUEZ Italy, Central & Eastern Europe and CIS explains that the bidding process was “very complex because it’s a PPP and there was little experience in the country”. However, As part its Cities Initiative, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, advised the city of Belgrade on structuring and implementing the PPP.

“The Belgrade Waste PPP is a landmark and pathfinder project for a region which has huge investment needs in infrastructure, in particular in the environment sector. We are convinced that Public-Private Partnerships are among the best solutions to combine technical, financial and contractual performance,” says Marie-Ange Debon, senior executive vice-president at SUEZ.

Heat & Power
Under the agreement, SUEZ and ITOCHU’s SPV will raise over €300m to build a 340,000 tonne per year combined heat and power waste to energy facility. Once operational it is expected to generate 25 MW of electricity 56 MW of heat.

When it comes to waste composition Rossignol explains that it’s not so different to that being processed by similar plants in Western Europe, but there is a bit more moisture and  less packaging than in more developed countries.

The electricity is to be sold to the grid, while the City of Belgrade will take the heat for its district heating system, which is currently meets 86% of its energy requirements using natural gas.

Being a 25 year contract there is always the potential for the waste stream entering the plant to change over time. Rossignol explains that that was one of the reasons behind the choice of combustion technology. “We’re talking about a failrly clasical grate incineration plant, so the grate can take anything,” he says.

The combustion and emissions technology are being carried out by French firm CNIM, which will also manage construction of the project alongside Serbian construction company Energoprojekt.

Out with the old
In use since 1977, Vinča landfill is the largest in the Belgrade area. It’s been receiving around 2700 tonnes of waste every day for years, with little by the way of environmental control. In June this year a fire at the site burned for over a month causing alarm over air pollution among residents.

“We’re going to build a new landfill and rehabilitate the old dump,” says Rossignol. “It’s a huge dump with leachate going straight into the Danube. We will have to excavate the waste and move it. It’s quite a complex remediation project, with a significant amount of money involved. For that we rely on our knowhow, but also on local companies.”

“From a technical point of view, the beauty of the project is that we can do one line {at the waste to energy plant} for all 340,000 tonnes, which is not usual,” he continues. “The fact we can do it with only one line is due to the fact that there will be a landfill. When you close the line for maintenace you need to have a place for the waste. Also part of the project is to collect the landfill gas and recover heat and energy.”

The Future
While the contract also includes the construction and operation of a facility to process 200,000 tonnes of C&D waste per year, it does not include dedicated municipal waste recycling infrastructure.

According to Rossignol, while the city is not developing an MRF for municipal recycling right now, a significant quantity of the available recyclable materials are collected by the informal sector at source.

However, he does expect a more formal approach to the collection and sorting of recyclables in the future, but says that at the moment the focus is on diverting waste away from a highly polluting dumpsite and ensuring that what is landfilled is done so at a sanitary facility.