Hydroelectric power plants as waste disposal stations

Hydroelectric power plants as waste disposal stations

14.12.2020

Hydroelectric power plants make a significant contribution to the removal of plastic waste from inland waters. This is emphasized by the Vereinigung Wasserkraftwerke in Bayern e.V. (VWB, the association of hydroelectric power plants in Bavaria) and the Landesverband Bayerische Wasserkraftwerke in a joint press release, which refers to the results of an analysis of hydroelectric power plants that was carried out as part of the joint project "MicBin – Microplastics in Inland Waters", about which we reported in the last edition of our newsletter.

The subject of the study was plastic waste that, even though it gets into inland waters, does not enter the sea because it is removed at weirs, barrages and hydroelectric power plants. The trade associations of hydroelectric power plant operators in Bavaria have now used the results of the study to draw attention to the contribution made by their members in removing tens of thousands of tons of floating refuse and civilization waste from streams, canals and rivers every year. The proportion of plastic waste was determined as part of a work package in the joint project. Based on different scenarios, say the associations, this sub-study comes to the conclusion that the hydroelectric power plants remove up to 290 tons of macroplastic from flowing waterways in the Bavarian Danube region. A large proportion of this is packaging waste, but it also includes agricultural film and sheeting, plant pots and building waste of polystyrene. The calculation model covered around 3,200 of the 4,200 or so hydroelectric power stations in Bavaria.

According to the associations, it is the power plant operators who bear the costs for sorting the collected waste and separately disposing of it. Michael Müller, a member of the Board of the VWB, writes in his summary: "Apart from CO2-free energy production, groundwater stabilization and flood protection, another important function of hydroelectric power is the elimination of consumer waste. The general public is thus saved considerable costs and the state of the waterways is improved."

Participants in the MicBin project apart from the BKV are the Bavarian State Office for the Environment, the University of Augsburg, the University of Osnabrück, the Technical University of Cologne, the German Water Center, and the Federal Institute for Hydrology. It is a joint project within the BMBF research program "Plastics in the Environment – Sources • Sinks • Solutions ".

More information: Report: Analysis of hydroelectric power plants – MicBin joint project, work package 4.1 (for download - only in German language)

Your contact for this topic is Stephanie Cieplik (stephanie.cieplik @ bkv-gmbh . de)

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