Ash refining supports the development of a real circular economy
Fly ash, which contains salt and heavy metals, is a hazardous by-product of the incineration of household waste. Previously, ash was mixed into cement, which was then taken to a landfill, where the salt gradually dissolves into the ground and water systems. With the change in the EU regulation, this method is no longer a valid way to treat fly ash. The regulation states that waste containing a high volume of salt can no longer be dumped into landfills. Because salt accounts for one third of fly ash, a new process to treat it is needed. The new plant also fulfils the new EU Best Available Technology (BAT) criteria, whereas the old stabilisation methods produce a high risk of dust emissions with the hazardous, extremely light dust material. Stabilisation plants also require 3-fold exemptions from state authorities because they do not meet all EU regulations for landfill waste.
Fortum is the first operator to process fly ash in Finland and thereby reduce both CO2 emissions and the amount of material that ends up in landfills. In the first stage of our refining process, the salt is washed away from the ash and dissolved into the seawater. As noted, this is only the first stage; we are working relentlessly to reuse the separated salt and heavy metals in the upcoming years.